South Carolina’s #1 Crime: Domestic Violence

Purple Ribbon Dom Viol

This morning while reading an article about Domestic Violence in The State newspaper, I became a little choked up. Why this article this morning? I don’t know for certain.

It could be because I’ve been focusing on Domestic Violence this month a little more than usual. Sure I’ve noted Domestic Violence Awareness Month each year, but this year, I’ve received information about DV while also searching for statistics as well as stories.

I don’t have to go too far to find someone I know. Even in high school one of my best friends confided in me that her boyfriend liked to hurt her. I advised her then to stop seeing him. It took a few more times of him “hurting” her before she finally did.

Then in my late twenties, one of my dear friends moved out of town to be with her “dreamy” boyfriend. Through the grapevine I heard that she was being abused. I called her up at work and asked if this was true. She didn’t want to talk about it. That was ok, I didn’t give up. Eventually I went to visit her, and meet him. At first glance, he seemed dashing and quite charming. I could see the attraction. Later though when we “girls” stayed up late chatting into the wee hours, I learned the truth. It didn’t take long for us to come up with a plan to move her back home – while he was away.

And then there’s the pro bono work I did in law school. A friend and I volunteered with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program to assist the grant-sponsored Sistercare legal advocacy program. Our role was limited – we, advocate/law students, couldn’t represent the victims in court, but we could meet with them, complete the questionnaire with them, hand them tissues, hold their hands and hug them. They told us that they appreciated our help.

And one time, the attorney supervisor had another engagement and wasn’t able to appear with one of the victims. The victim, a mild-mannered woman who had been married 30+ years to the man, wasn’t able to afford an attorney. And she had nobody else to go with her into the courtroom. The volunteers were not allowed to represent the victims but were allowed to accompany them into the courtroom.

So I went. I was a little nervous. A little scared. After all, the husband was there. And so was his attorney. And then I had my “aha” moment (as Oprah calls them) – if I was nervous, how did the victim feel?

When the judge asked everyone to identify ourselves, I noted that I was the advocate and unable to represent the woman next to me. The judge allowed me to stay.

The hearing took about 15 minutes. It was evident that the woman didn’t know how to defend her claim. And I was just there to offer her a friendly hand.

After the hearing we went into the hall, where it was TENSE. The woman and I spoke on one side of the hall. The husband and his attorney spoke on the other side. I remember her telling me “I have to go back. He has all the money. I haven’t worked in 30+ years. He said it will be ok.”

I watched as she left me and walked over to her much taller, larger husband. They embraced. I felt alone and demoralized. I don’t know what she felt.

Every now and then I think about her. Is she ok? I’ll probably never know.

-RFW

A Must Attend Event: November 4, 2009

If you are a law student considering a career in public service or a recent graduate working for the government or a non-profit legal service entity, then mark your calendar for November 4th.

CCRAA program flyer

Heather Jarvis, an attorney specializing in student debt, will present information on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA).

From the Flyer:

Attendees will learn:

  • how the new income-based repayment plan works,
  • how to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and
  • the answers to all your questions about student loans

Special thanks to Pamela D. Robinson, USC School of Law Pro Bono Director, for sharing this special event!

-RFW

USC School of Law Librarian Terrye Conroy to receive AALL Public Spirit Award

I’m pleased to post that Terrye Conroy, a Reference/Public Services Librarian at the Coleman Karesh Law Library at USC School of Law will be one of two recipients of the Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

She worked with the South Carolina Library Association, to develop and coordinate the Circuit Riders Outreach Program which travels throughout the state teaching basic legal research skills to non-law librarians in public and academic libraries.

 Congratulations Terrye!

-RFW

Welcome Allie Bullard!

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is pleased to present our latest pro bono addition, Allie Bullard! Allie is assisting the Commission this summer as a pro bono law clerk. She is a rising 2L at the USC School of Law and we are thrilled to have her on board.

And, she’s agreed to be a blogger from time to time.

Welcome Allie!

Allie Bullard - 1st day

-RFW

Upcoming SC Events

Here are some noteworthy events coming up in May 2009. Feel free to add them to your calendar.

 

Columbia, SC:

Friday, May 1 – P&A’s Annual Gala: Celebrating Abilities: An Evening of Jazz and Art

To benefit Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A)

6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on the 17th floor of the Meridian Building.

Admission: $50 per person, sponsorships available

 

Friday, May 8 – University of South Carolina School of Law GRADUATION

 

Saturday, May 9 – South Carolina Bar Young Lawyer Division’s 3rd Annual Justice Jam

To benefit Sistercare

7:00 p.m. at Sudworks in Five Points

Admission: $5 per person

 

Tuesday, May 12 – Women After Five 16th Annual Reception and Silent Auction
To benefit Sistercare
5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Columbia Conference Center
Admission: $40 per person donation requested

 

Beaufort, SC:

Friday, May 22 – CODA 2009 Carolina Spring Fling

To benefit CODA and Lowcountry survivors of domestic violence

6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Hargray Building and Harvey Plaza

Admission: $50 per person or $40 per person for groups of 10 or more

 

Charleston, SC:

Saturday, May 16 – Charleston School of Law GRADUATION

 

-RFW

Social Justice

Yesterday I had the distinct honor and pleasure to present South Carolina Access to Justice to Professor Susan Kuo’s Social Justice class at USC School of Law. I was pleased to share video from the Commission’s public hearings as well as field questions from the students.

If you’re interested in viewing my presentation, click here.

-RFW

SRL Videos

Today I was fortunate to take part in instructional videos for judges when working with SRLs in the courtroom. The scripts were based on several different scenarios including Family Court and Circuit Court cases based on information the SC Access to Justice Commission has learned in previous conferences held by the SRL Network. Many thanks to Richard Zorza who served as not only the inspiration for these videos but also our technical advisor. The South Carolina Bar provided the videographers who ensured that the lighting and takes were correct. And many thanks to USC School of Law 3L Amelia Waring and Stephanie Nye, Counsel to the Chief Justice, who not only wrote the scripts but also directed the shoot. Many thanks also to the old Lexington County courthouse for allowing us to film there today.

I’m looking forward to the final products and am grateful to have supportive Judges, attorneys and individuals willing to make this a quality product.

-RFW