Bar News - July 19, 2017
Board Perspective: Lawyers Can Help Address Domestic Violence Issues
By: Scott Harris
Imagine your 19-year-old daughter (or sister, or granddaughter) is on your doorstep. She’s got a black eye, a bloody lip and is shaking uncontrollably. The six-month-old baby in her arms is crying. It’s late. You know what’s happened without her saying a thing.
Her boyfriend, who seemed like a decent kid just two years ago when they were in school together, has started drinking and doing drugs. When he does, he becomes a control freak. He lashes out. You don’t know where to turn. There is no money to retain a lawyer to help.
Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine. Yet this, or some variant, confronts thousands of mostly women, but some men also, throughout New Hampshire every year. New Hampshire lawyers are part of the solution to this very significant problem. For 25 years, in fact, the New Hampshire Bar Association’s DOVE Project has trained and supplied lawyers to help the vulnerable survivors of domestic violence put their lives back on track. Help to celebrate this important milestone by considering volunteering as a DOVE volunteer, or make a financial contribution to the Bar Foundation (which this year is celebrating its own birthday, coming in 40 years strong). Here are three reasons you might consider helping:
First, domestic violence has enormous financial consequences in our communities. According to Forbes magazine, the cost of domestic violence nationally is $8.3 billion. That includes uncompensated care for physical and psychological injury, lost time from work, and resources that need to be diverted from other court cases. It also includes the costs associated with the impact to the children who are exposed to domestic violence.
Those children have more problems in school and require significant additional resources. Even with that assistance, they usually fall far short of their potential. The cost of that loss of opportunity is incalculable.
Second, one of the themes that unifies us as a community and that allows us to live in relative peace and abundance, is our belief in and adherence to a set of constitutional principles. Chief among those principles is the idea of “justice for all.” Indeed, it can be argued that we cannot be truly free without recourse to the courts when our rights and freedoms are otherwise in jeopardy. “Justice,” however, is not self-executing. Those who survive domestic violence need an advocate if they are to secure their rights in court.
Third, helping others is part of what makes practicing law a fulfilling career. Plus, studies show that the shot of dopamine you get when you help others fortifies your mental well-being, which is never a bad idea.
So, if you’ve got some free time or a few unspent dollars, think about whether helping to redress the scourge of domestic violence is a place you can help out.