Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Richard Conlin
AID TO DOMESTIC-VIOLENCE VICTIMS ADVANCES
Innovative new program provides legal assistance to survivors
SEATTLE — Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Richard Conlin were pleased that one of the Council’s key initiatives to aid domestic-violence victims was, today, unanimously voted out of the Housing, Human Services, and Health Committee. The aid for domestic violence survivors would come in the form of legal help, ranging from a phone conversation to full legal representation at a civil trial. This new program, administered by the Human Services Department, would spend $137,000 in 2007 and $270,000 in 2008, and plans to assist over 1000 victims annually.
Councilmember Rasmussen, chair of the Committee, said, “Domestic violence victims need legal advice on many issues including divorce, access to joint bank accounts, and custody of their children. Many cannot afford a lawyer and this program will provide them with the assistance they need.” Councilmember Conlin, who spearheaded funding for the program in last year’s budget, said, “Unresolved legal issues, especially family law and immigration, are daunting barriers to domestic violence victims who are trying to achieve safety and self-determination. These monies will help survivors protect their own and their children's safety and to become economically independent from their abusers.”
The funding will provide for two family law attorneys and one paralegal to work full time providing legal assistance to survivors by mid-July. The program’s goal is that after victims call the aid line, they would receive a response from a lawyer within one to two hours. Councilmember Rasmussen said, “When a survivor takes the brave step of seeking help, we want to come to his or her aid quickly.” Councilmember Conlin said, “Domestic violence hurts all of us. It is gratifying to be able to do something to help those in need.”
The Full Council plans to take action on the spending plan at its June 4th meeting.