Accused Batterers Get Free Attorneys. Domestic Violence Victims Don’t. That Needs to Change.
By Denise Grab
When domestic violence cases make their way through the legal system, accused batterers have the right to a free court-appointed attorney in criminal cases. But a domestic violence survivor isn’t assured access to reduced-cost legal services. It’s a problematic imbalance, and correcting it could likely reduce the rate of domestic violence.
Giving accused batterers free legal representation it is hardly controversial—our justice system prioritizes a fair defense for the accused. But what if we took the additional step of subsidizing legal services for domestic violence survivors?
For survivors, having an attorney can increase the likelihood of obtaining a civil restraining order from 32 percent to 86 percent. Restraining orders, in turn, can reduce the occurrence of violence and help survivors feel safer and more empowered in their relationships and lives. Attorneys can also assist with other legal issues, such as child custody, divorce, housing, and government benefits, which may be holding survivors back from leaving abusive relationships.
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