Lending legal help to victims of abuse

Johnson City Press • Aug 13, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Researchers at the Institute for Policy Integrity say one effective way to reduce domestic violence is to provide victims with free legal counsel. Attorneys can be expensive, and many victims of domestic abuse simply can’t afford to hire one.

About 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women. More than 50 percent of all women will experience physical violence in an intimate relationship, and for 30 percent of those women, the physical abuse comes on a daily basis.

Without competent legal advice, it’s often difficult for women to obtain protective orders, leave their abusive partners and escape the cycle of violence. As a result, victims who are trapped in violent relationships often miss work because of injury and become burdened with hospital bills they can’t pay.

That’s why the IPI, a nonpartisan think tank, believes providing women with free legal counsel is both a cost-effective and realistic solution to combating domestic abuse. We agree, and we urge the courts and the state General Assembly to take a look at implementing such a plan in Tennessee.

In addition to helping victims get a protective order against an abuser, a free or subsidized attorney can also help victims deal with related issues, such as child custody, immigration status and housing.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says a battering occurs every 15 seconds in the United States. Most abusers are men. Sadly, Tennessee is routinely ranked among the top 10 states in the nation for the number of women killed by men.

There are organizations that victims of domestic violence can turn to in time of need. Residents in Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties can call Contact Ministries at 926-0144. Contact is a nonprofit volunteer-based telephone helpline ministry serving Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

A 24-hour hotline for Safe Passage, a shelter for battered individuals in the area, can be reached at 926-7233.

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