Domestic violence hurts men, women, and families all over the world, but on Tuesday, July 21, one U.S. group offered up a solution to this serious problem — providing victims with free domestic violence attorneys.
The Institute for Policy Integrity is a nonpartisan think tank, and they recently released a new report detailing the financial burden too often placed on women in violent relationships. Female victims of intimate partner violence often miss work or incur expensive hospital bills after an injury. Such expenses prolong both the cycle of debt and the cycle of violence, especially if the victims become more financially dependent on their abuser.
“From obtaining a simple restraining order to preventing a violent abuser from obtaining custody, the availability of a knowledgeable and affordable attorney can literally mean the difference between survival and disaster,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which enthusiastically endorsed the new report.
Surveys that ask women to self-report incidences of domestic violence conclude that about one in two women will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetime, which includes behavior like pushing and shoving as well as extreme violence like attempted murder and sexual assault. Furthermore, experts say one in four women will suffer severe violence at the hands of a romantic partner.
And sadly, most experts agree that domestic violence often goes unreported, as men and women suffer in silence, trapped in an abusive relationship. For women who do go to the authorities, the Institute for Policy Integrity reported that lawyers drastically improve outcomes for victims. Only 32% of women who couldn’t afford an attorney managed to get a protective order, but 83% of victims with legal representation were successful.
Denise Grab, the senior attorney with the institute and co-author of the report, says subsidized legal aid will have a major, positive effect on the lives of domestic violence victims. When lawyers help a man or woman obtain a protective order against an abusive partner, the domestic violence is more likely to end for good.