According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in every 4 women and 1 in every 7 men will experience some form of domestic violence by an intimate partner over the course of their lives. Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Project (DVP), with a staff of 4 including supervising attorney Katy Oleksy, handles a large volume of these cases every year.
In 2015, LAS’s DVP handled 1,107 cases involving domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual abuse, dating violence, and stalking. Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Project is the critical legal stepping stone that helps to separate victims from their abusers.
Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Project services are free and one of only two projects that do not need clients to meet financial qualifications. LAS’s DVP provides a comprehensive spectrum of services that include immediate legal counseling, representation at injunction hearings, assistance to victims who wish to make modifications to their current injunctions, and legal training to community advocates.
In addition, our DVP staff makes referrals for divorce, paternity, child support, adoption, relative custody, public benefits, housing, immigration, dependency, and senior citizen issues. The Domestic Violence Project also makes referrals to other agencies and community organizations that provide shelter, protection from abuse, outreach, safety planning, and other supportive resources such as Aids to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Victim Services, YMCA’s Harmony House, Palm Beach County Clerk of the Court, and the Center for Independent Living Options (CILO).
The staff of Legal Aid’s project DVP appreciates all of our community partners. AVDA is just one of many organizations that have assisted our clients throughout the years. Since 1985, AVDA has helped victims of domestic violence escape abuse and transition to rebuilding their lives. AVDA has been monumental in providing a safe haven for the clients of the Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Project. AVDA’s transitional housing program works with survivors for up to 2 years, transitioning them into independent living. Pam O’Brien, AVDA’s Executive Director deeply appreciates Legal Aid’s policy of not requiring a client to meet financial qualifications in order to receive free legal services in cases of domestic violence. “We find this to be a very powerful point for our survivors.” Pam is also grateful for the opportunity to have collaborated with Legal Aid in 2013 to develop a community wide anti-stalking initiative for Palm Beach County, which continues to be used as a national model.
Once a victim has obtained a temporary injunction, Legal Aid’s DVP attorneys have just 15 days to build a case before trial, in order to extend the injunction and to demonstrate a pattern of abuse. In addition to a short turnaround time to trial, DVP also faces the challenge of staying up to date on the latest developing technologies such as spoof apps that can make authenticating the abuser in stalking cases, more difficult.
Despite challenges, the DVP finds that overall, being instrumental in helping victims in Palm Beach County has proven to be very rewarding. Katy and her team of 3, work vigorously to make a difference in the lives of their clients, juggling 4 courthouses, 10 judges, 5 days a week. When victims reach out to the DVP they have already taken the first steps to break the cycle of abuse.
Katy says, “It’s not easy for a victim to come out of the shadows, or to call law enforcement.” The Domestic Violence Project helps to promote stability and ensure safety for victims and their families.
If you know someone that needs to break the cycle of abuse, please provide them with the following resources:
If you need legal assistance please contact us at (561) 655-8944 once you have received a temporary injunction and a court date.
Local Domestic Violence Shelters
Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA)
24 Hour Hotline: (800) 355-8547
Mary Rubloff YWCA Harmony HousePhone: (561) 640-9844