September 2011 • Vol. 31 No. 8 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

LACBA's Domestic Violence Project Needs Your Help

More than 10,000 abused clients are assisted annually.

Training workshop for new volunteers with speakers Carmen Trutanich, Los Angeles City Attorney, and Judge David Cunningham, Los Angeles Superior Court, is scheduled for October 5. Register now.

Last year, LACBA's Domestic Violence Project assisted more than 10,000 abused clients with obtaining restraining orders against their assailant. The current economic climate and its accompanying frustrations and despair continue to exacerbate domestic violence situations. Because the project’s clients generally are from low-income families and subsequently may be experiencing more stress in these disruptive financial times, the project expects to assist another 10,000 clients this year. 

As staggering as the numbers sound, however, LACBA volunteers do make a difference every day. During a three-hour shift, a single volunteer can help as many as three victims seek protection from their abuser. Collectively, volunteers donated nearly 7,300 hours of their time, valued at $1,888,935, by providing pro bono assistance last year.

In addition to interviewing clients and helping them complete legal documents to get their restraining orders—a necessary first step in handling domestic violence situations—volunteers meet with clients who return with follow-up questions concerning their existing orders or requests for extensions of their orders. The project also prepares victims for their hearings, assists them with interaction with local law enforcement, and provides them with contacts to local shelters for safety. All services are provided in English and Spanish.

While clients can find the process overwhelming and confusing, sitting down one-on-one with a real person who can help them directly is priceless.

"Volunteers are more than the backbone of the program, they are the very reason that the program works,” says Deborah Kelly, Domestic Violence Project Directing Attorney. “The generous gift of pro bono hours to LACBA's Domestic Violence Project enables the project to provide legal services to thousands of victims each year." See videos from clients here.

Home should be safe, not terrifying. Nationally, an estimated 11 percent of all people experience violence within their home. Domestic violence follows a pattern of assault and coercion—often including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion—that adults and adolescents impose against their intimate partners.

  • Women of all races are equally vulnerable to attacks by intimate partners.
  • Domestic violence causes more injury to adult women than cancer, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Domestic violence causes more injuries to women between the ages of 15 and 44 than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • One in three women experiences sexual violence in her lifetime.
  • Nearly 100 percent of children in violent homes hear or see the abuse.
  • 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year.
  • 50 percent of battered women who are employed are harassed at work by their abusive partners.1

Volunteers find opportunities to develop their skills. Newer attorneys volunteer along side experienced ones, gaining expertise in an area of family law and developing skills that can be applied to their practice—while at the same time helping victims and their families gain protection against their abuser.

No previous experience in this area of law is necessary. Volunteers attend one evening training session, which provides 3 hours of CLE credit. The next training takes place on October 5.

Attorneys volunteer for two 3-hour commitments per month for six months. Volunteer hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to noon or 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

No ongoing representation is required, although volunteers have the option of representing their client at the time of the hearing.

The project, which began in 1986, is a joint collaboration with the Los Angeles Superior Court, which provides courtroom space for the project’s locations in the Central and Pasadena Districts, parking for volunteers, and assistance with the volunteer trainings. 

“At the Domestic Violence Project, access to justice is more than a legal concept. It's real. We assist real people with life-threatening problems, and the rewards are many,” says Kelly. “The victim is empowered, his or her children receive protection, and the community benefits by the effort.”

For more information about the Domestic Violence Project, click here or contact Deborah Kelly at (213) 896-6491 or

1 Information collated from reports by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, Peace Over Violence (Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women), Surgeon General Reports, the U.S.D.A., and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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