Legal Services Alabama (LSA) is partnering with the District Court of Greene County, the 17th Circuit Court of Alabama and the District Attorney of the 17th Circuit of Alabama to ensure that victims of domestic and intimate partner violence are safely removed from their abusers and offered civil legal remedies and victim services.
The new program – Assisting Victims of Domestic Violence in Rural Alabama – targets Dallas, Greene, Marengo, Perry, Sumter, and Wilcox counties. The project utilizes a holistic approach that offers legal representation, immediate referrals for victims, case management and coordination with law enforcement.
Alabama’s Black Belt region has an average poverty rate of nearly three times higher than the national average. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated both financial insecurities and rates of domestic violence. While many felt safest at home during 2020, quarantine created more opportunities than ever for abuse in isolation.
“Domestic violence is pervasive across the nation,” says Robert Rygiel, LSA grant writer who supported the development of the project narrative. “Victims in areas like the Black Belt face further struggles accessing resources and relief. This project will address the gaps that keep domestic violence victims in rural spaces isolated from the legal advocacy they deserve.”
To help clients navigate courts and access services, the project adds two positions to the target area – an attorney and a victim advocate. The attorney will exclusively serve the target population, traveling throughout the region so representation comes directly to clients. Similarly, the victim advocate will travel in the service area to coordinate with law enforcement, courts, prosecution, LSA and project partners to ensure victims are given immediate access to services that transition them to a financially and physically sustainable environment.
LSA will also provide training to law enforcement and prosecution on stalking and how to respond to it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women and one in 10 men experience intimate partner violence. The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice reports that cases of domestic violence increased by 8.1 percent after lockdown orders went into effect.
Assisting Victims of Domestic Violence in Rural Alabama is funded by a grant award from the Office of Violence Against Women.