October 14, 2012 | Violence Against Women
Furthering Justice: InMotion Connects Women in Crisis with Lawyers
By Ashley Bush
On October 1st, President Obama declared October 2012 National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a call to raise awareness for the victims, majority women, that far too often suffer in silence without hope of intervention.
In 2011, New York City Police responded to 257,813 domestic violence incidents. That's over 700 incidents per day. 96% of these cases had no current order of protection against their abusers.
According to statistics, however, some don't even get to make that call. Three women in the United States lose their lives every day due to domestic violence cases.
Victims often suffer in silence either out of fear or because they don't know the resources available to assist in their liberation. With barely enough money to pay for life's necessities, hiring an attorney for legal assistance is not an option. While the government provides programs to assist domestic violence victims, sometimes women can be put on a waiting list for a couple of years. An overwhelming majority of women go to Family Court without an attorney, and as a result, often have to forfeit their legal rights due to lack of representation, rather than on the merits of their condition. Then not only are their lives in danger, but also those of their children. The need for free legal access is huge.
inMotion, a non-profit organization in New York City, exists to stand up for these women who can't stand up for themselves. In 1993 Catherine J. Douglass left her partnership at a prominent law firm to found inMotion with the mission of connecting women in crisis with lawyers, and enabling women to resolve the legal crises that prevent them from moving forward into productive lives.
inMotion serves critical legal needs in three main areas; matrimonial, family, and immigration law. Some case examples include addressing orders of protection against the abuser, court orders requiring the batterers to move out of the home, fair divorce judgments, custody to caring mothers, and legal residency without reliance on the abusive husband.
While the organization serves low-income women and children, 70-80% of the clients have domestic violence issues. Carol Lindley, the Senior Director of Development and Communications at inMotion, points out that "often times somebody may not at first identify themselves as an abused victim. It's not just about being stabbed. There is financial, verbal, and emotional abuse as well."
Every Thursday, inMotion's legal team holds in-depth phone conversations with clients to decipher how they can best assist with these cases, whether it’s providing legal tips to women going into Family Court the next day, or pairing women with a professional lawyer to handle a legal case.
While many women do reach out for help, plenty do not, especially in the immigrant community. To work towards solving this issue, inMotion recently joined forces with the New York City Family Justice Centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, to act as a one-stop shop. Victims can receive immediate help on the spot, from legal to housing issues. Furthermore, in many cases, immigrant women are unable to properly represent themselves in court due to language barriers, over a third of inMotion’s clients do not speak English as their primary language. They need an interpreter to access the legal system; as a result inMotion provides translators.
Pro bono lawyers are recruited from 80 corporate law firms and corporations around New York City, and last year alone donated 76,000 hours to represent inMotion clients. With a small legal team of 15, the organization provides professional services valued at more than $30 million. At the end of the day, Lindley states that inMotion “functions like private law firm with 55 full-time employees”.
Maxine, a recent inMotion client, sees a future of hope and dreams "I can laugh out loud and not be scared someone is going to tell me to shut up…" and “now can go after my dreams”. To their clients, inMotion means hope, and an otherwise, unforeseen future.
In the name of National Domestic Violence month, let’s spread awareness and recognize organizations like inMotion who are fighting to break the vicious silent cycle, and provide women a productive and hopeful future.
Ashley Bush is a writer for Women in the World Foundation. She is an assistant writing aid to President Spar of Barnard College, and the co-creator of the webseries Route by Route.