Bar News - May 17, 2017
DOVE Project Celebrating 25 Years of Connecting Victims with Volunteers
In 2017, the Domestic Violence Emergency (DOVE) Project at the NH Bar Association is celebrating 25 years of assisting victims of domestic partner and family violence by connecting them with volunteer attorneys who help them find safety and independence.
An effort to expand DOVE’s services to victims of stalking and the 2017 Race for Justice, scheduled for June 24 in Whitefield, New Hampshire, are two ways that more New Hampshire attorneys can learn about and support DOVE’s important work. Bar News asked longtime DOVE Coordinator Pam Dodge about the details of these new initiatives.
Bar News: How does DOVE help victims of domestic violence and stalking?
Pam Dodge: Since 1992, DOVE volunteer lawyers have provided emergency limited-scope representation to victims of intimate partner and family violence (IMP) at final restraining order hearings under NH RSA 173-B. DOVE has linked thousands of income-eligible abuse victims with lawyers for free advice and representation. In coordination with crisis centers across the state, DOVE provides support and legal help that bolsters a survivor’s chances of successfully disengaging from an abuser.
Until now, DOVE has limited its response to victims of IMP, leaving a vacuum for victims of intimate and non-intimate partner stalking seeking civil legal representation. This spring, DOVE is introducing its new initiative to help fill this gap in access to justice. Through this program, petitioners will soon be able to apply for legal assistance for stalking relief, regardless of relationship to the offender. Support for this program is provided through a sub-grant from NH Legal Assistance awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, and administered through the New Hampshire Department of Justice.
BN: What professional development opportunities does DOVE offer to New Hampshire attorneys?
PD: DOVE coordinates multidisciplinary trainings on the dynamics of abuse, offering substantive programming on New Hampshire statutes and case law, and education on partner’s roles that fosters a holistic response for victims. These trainings give prospective DOVE panel members the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to handle DOVE cases, while also offering existing volunteers the means to keep up with developments in the law and hone their skills. On June 13, DOVE will launch its stalking project by offering a full-day seminar to teach attorneys how to assist survivors at final stalking hearings brought civilly under RSA 633:3-a. This program is designed to train members with a passion to make a difference for victims of stalking, regardless of their practice area.
BN: Are children often involved in DOVE cases? How does DOVE’s work make these frightening situations easier for them?
PD: Unfortunately, research shows that children living in homes with intimate partner violence are at greater risk of child abuse. Exposure to domestic violence has far-reaching detrimental effects on children, including infants. Thankfully, New Hampshire laws provide plaintiffs with protective relief from the abuse, as well as additional relief that extends to children and other household members. Because financial stability and safety of children is crucial to the safety of victims, securing this additional relief through civil protective orders is vital, and is an area where DOVE attorneys can have great effect.
BN: The Race for Justice 5K, a benefit for the DOVE Project, is coming up on June 24 in Whitefield, NH. Why do you think attorneys should sign up to run or sponsor the race?
PD: DOVE receives a patchwork of grants that support the infrastructure necessary to operate the program. A part-time coordinator and support staff are responsible for orchestrating recruitment and retention of volunteer lawyers, development of training programs for lawyers and crisis center advocates, and the daily administration of program activities, under the supervision of the NH Bar Association’s legal services director. Participating in this 5K trail race can help defray costs for additional supports, such as providing victims with interpreter services, and reimbursement for other out-of-pocket expenses that can be a burden to the victim and volunteer.
BN: What are some of the major changes you’ve seen while working in the domestic violence field for the past 25 years?
PD: One disturbing trend is an increase in lethal behavior perpetrated against the plaintiffs. The physical, emotional and psychological tactics employed by some abusers against their “loved ones” is inconceivable. Of course, another development in the past 25 years is the increasing (mis)use of technology in abusive relationships. This is a topic that will be studied in the June 13 stalking seminar.
BN: How can attorneys learn more and get involved in assisting victims of domestic violence and stalking through the DOVE Project?
PD: Contact me by email, or Kerstin Cornell, part-time assistant coordinator, to learn more about the upcoming stalking seminar and other training opportunities. To register for the Race for Justice, visit www.nhbar.org.