By Diane, a Hotline Advocate
Navigating the legal system can feel very overwhelming, especially when someone is dealing with abuse in their relationship. Even when survivors have evidence of the abuse, abusers often try to make their partners feel they have no legal rights or resources, adding on to the stress and fear of exploring options. Legal advocates understand these dynamics, and are meant to be safe sources of support and guidance for survivors of abuse. The specific services offered can vary from local provider to provider, and while legal advocates are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice, if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse and has legal concerns, or wants to know how to safety plan with the legal system, talking to a legal advocate can be a good place to start.
Here are a few common concerns people have that a legal advocate may be able to help with:
“I don’t know what legal options I have in this situation.“
No one plans to suffer abuse in their relationship, so it’s understandable to not have an immediate legal plan when abuse occurs. Legal advocates are there to hear the situation and provide relevant information around the laws for the state and county, as well as let survivors know of available legal protections for victims of abuse.
Some examples of issues legal advocates can provide information around are:
- Custody and Child Support
- Protective Orders
- Immigration and VAWA Rights (Violence Against Women Act)
- Housing Rights
- Police Reports and Criminal Proceedings
“I can’t afford a lawyer.“
The expense of a lawyer can be a boundary that keeps survivors of abuse from getting the legal services they need and deserve.
Legal advocates can help survivors connect with assistance, such as:
- Legal Aid resources
- Pro bono attorneys or on-staff attorneys
- Other legal assistance services that can provide representation or assistance through the legal process available in that state or county
“I am scared to go to court.”
It is valid to be afraid to go to court with someone who has been abusive towards you. Legal advocates understand that the court system is not always trauma-informed or understanding of how distressing the situation could be for someone who has suffered abuse.
A legal advocate can be a great help in alleviating some of the stress and concern involved by:
- Explaining the court process clearly and thoroughly, and safety planning around the court day
- Discussing potential outcomes and safety planning around these outcomes
- Accompanying the survivor to court to provide support throughout the day
“I don’t think going through the legal system is right for me.”
Victims of abuse may find that going through the legal system does not feel right or safe for them. Survivors are in the best position to make these choices for themselves, and legal advocates can not only discuss legal options, but help explore alternate safety planning strategies for situations where legal systems are not required to be involved.
Legal advocates let survivors know their rights and options, and then are there to support survivors as they go forward with that information in the way they find is best for them personally. If this is an option you want to learn more about, or if you have other questions or concerns, reach out to us! Our advocates can connect you with legal advocates in your community and are available 24/7/365 by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or by chat at www.thehotline.org.