Written by Adam Jacobs

Oct 26


Spotlight–Survivor Anna Jones

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we honor our clients like Anna Jones, who has bravely shared her own story and given us a somber reminder about the many parents and children who have yet to reach safety. Hear more from Anna here:

Oct 25


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status—An Option for Some Immigrant Child Survivors

When I met Dalia, she was as quiet as the grave. She had good reason to be withdrawn and mistrustful, hiding even her eyes behind her hair. When Dalia was a few months old, her mother fled from domestic violence in El Salvador to the United States, leaving her daughter behind with a substance-abusing father. After years of being passed around to distracted relatives, Dalia’s father was shot and killed by the police when a drug deal went awry.

Dalia became a street child, sleeping in a shed and gathering scrap metal. One day her mother finally managed to gather together the money to have Dalia transported by smugglers on the dangerous journey through Mexico to the Texas border. Like most children arriving in the US without a parent, Dalia was placed in a detention center (or “foster”) facility funded by the Department of Health and Human Services for about a month before being released to live with her mom here in DC. And like every other immigrant and refugee, Dalia has no right to a public defender for her pending deportation case. Kids like Dalia, no matter how young, must navigate a hostile and complex immigration system, in English, with whatever resources their guardians can spare. Organizations like Legal Aid can only meet a fraction of the need for free and affordable services to fill the gap. Read more →

Oct 21


Reminder Not to Miss DC Pro Bono Week Events

Ready to learn more about local pro bono opportunities and kick off DC Pro Bono Week? Then you won’t want to miss this year’s Pro Bono Goes Local, a launch celebration on Friday, October 22, from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.

This launch event will begin with opening remarks from Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby from the D.C. Court of Appeals, and Chief Judge Josey-Herring from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. We’ll share the many ways DC law firms are giving back through a pro bono initiative called DC Represents and conclude with a series of updates and recent developments in six different practice areas. You’ll get an inside view from local experts on current developments in civil justice and updates on the most urgent pro bono needs we are facing during this critical time in our community. Read more →

Oct 20


Recent Law Changes Expand Protections for Survivors

On December 15, 2020, the D.C. Council passed the Intrafamily Offenses and Anti-Stalking Orders Amendment Act of 2020. The new law, which took effect on April 27 of this year, significantly expands protections for domestic violence survivors. Legal Aid is proud to be part of the group of advocates that drafted and supported these reforms.

A few of the many reforms in this bill are:

Read more →

Oct 19


5 Common Signs of Financial Abuse

Many people who have never experienced domestic violence ask, “If someone’s being abused, why don’t they just leave?” The answer is abusers use very effective tactics to gain control and trap victims in a relationship. Survivors know “just leaving” usually takes both careful preparation and a support network, and the days right before and after leaving are the most physically dangerous. One common control tactic is financial abuse, which occurs in up to 99% of abusive relationships.

Although financial abuse is very common, it’s not as well-recognized as other forms of abuse like hitting, shoving, or verbal threats of harm. Financial abuse means controlling access to resources to make a victim isolated and dependent on their abuser for survival needs. Read more →

Oct 18


Good Cause Waivers Can Help Protect DV Survivors with Child Support Cases

Many domestic violence survivors are forced to leave their homes with just a few belongings in order to escape an abuser and find safety for themselves and their children. This often results in a survivor being financially vulnerable and having to rely on public benefits to regain stability.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is cash assistance often used by survivors with children. If a domestic violence survivor has custody of their children–formally or informally, they may apply for TANF. If qualified, they receive monthly assistance. However, receipt of this money requires the survivor to give up their own right to request child support. Instead, the District has the power to pursue a child support case against the non-custodial parent to recoup TANF money provided for the care of children.

Read more →

Oct 15


Legal Aid Supports Immigrants in filing for Civil Protection Orders

Immigrants filing for civil protective orders have a valid fear of exposing themselves and their families when seeking protection from abuse.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, domestic violence survivors who are undocumented immigrants experience additional fears when seeking help or when filing for a Civil Protection Order against their abusers. Immigrant survivors fear that seeking protection from abuse could lead to dire immigration consequences not only for themselves, but also for their abusers.
Read more →

Oct 14


DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Nadira Clarke

This piece was written for the Washington Council of Lawyers and is featured in their DC Pro Bono Week Profiles.

Nadira ClarkeBaker Botts partner, and Washington, D.C. Section Chair of the firm’s Environmental Safety & Incident Response Group, has leaned into leadership roles, mentorship opportunities, pro bono work, and more since joining Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees in 2018.  Indeed, when it came to encouraging pro bono engagement with Legal Aid, Nadira resolved to model the behavior she wanted to see in her colleagues.  Having previously handled sex-based discrimination litigation and immigration matters, Nadira is no stranger to pro bono work.  Yet, she was willing to dive into a new area of law and has been accepting child custody case referrals from Legal Aid in recent years. Read more →

Oct 13


Lessons from Hood Feminism: Keeping Survivors Safe from Gun Violence

Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit represents clients who are low-income, mostly women of color. One of the main struggles facing our clients continues to be gun violence, which disproportionately affects Black women. And yet, as Mikki Kendall points out in Hood Feminism,

We focus anti-gun violence programs on everyone but the girls and women at risk. Too often, we frame them as the ones who bear witness to the consequences, and not the ones who face them. But we know that gun violence touches girls at all points of life. In 2016, the Violence Police Center documented that Black women experience the highest rates of gun homicide out of any group of women, and much of that can be attributed to instances of intimate partner violence. “Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by a spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member that by a stranger.” And unfortunately, this is something that I can speak to personally.

Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism 21-22 (2020). Kendall then poignantly describes her own experience with separating from an abusive partner. She expresses relief that – despite continued abuse – Illinois laws prevented her partner from accessing a gun:

 . . . when that last bout of violence erupted, I knew the clock on my perfect plan had run out. I had a place I could mostly afford with only my name on the lease, and I got on with it. That didn’t mean the violence was over exactly; it just moved out of my house. He still sent me angry, abusive emails and text messages, he stalked and harassed me, and he still threatened violence despite restraining orders and arrests. But the good news, the best news? He didn’t have a gun. He could threaten, he could yell, he could hit me, but what he couldn’t do was lay his hands on was a projectile weapon that would have turned survivable rage into that split second that can’t be taken back. I got lucky, because we were in Illinois, a state that enforces the restriction on gun ownership for anyone with a recent history of domestic violence.” Read more →

Oct 08


Stop the Stigma: Domestic Violence Survivors and Mental Health

Many survivors of intimate partner violence face complicated barriers to accessing mental health services. While survivors face many challenges in their mental health journeys (including availability and financial barriers), one major challenge is the compounded stigmas of accessing mental health assistance and being in a relationship with a perpetrator of domestic violence. Survivors may not want to access mental health assistance, because they are embarrassed about their relationship, are concerned that they will be judged or labeled a “bad parent,” or have rationalized the behavior. Additionally, survivors also face the same stigmas that many people in treatment or seeking help face; that people who seek out mental health treatment are “weak,” in “just in a phase,” or could solve their own problems if they just “tried harder.” A survivor may face judgment from friends and family, who both judge them for being in an abusive relationship and for wanting mental health assistance. These stigmas can prevent survivors from seeking the help that they may need and definitely deserve. Read more →