by Shon T. Erwin with Bronwen Llewellyn, Megan Martin, and Robin Wilson
A career providing legal services to victims of domestic violence is not for the faint of heart. These selfless Oklahoma lawyers who sacrifice much to serve the most vulnerable among us deserve our support and our thanks. The NIH estimates that every year, as many as four million women in the United States are victims of domestic violence. One in three women will, during their lifetimes, experience domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence often suffer in silence unless they can somehow find an advocate to give them a voice. Your Oklahoma Bar Foundation makes grants to fund legal services for victims of domestic violence. Here are but a few of their success stories.
Bronwen Llewellyn, an attorney with Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc. (DVIS/Call Rape) in Tulsa tells us the story of “Carrie” who came to DVIS/Call Rape for assistance with a protective order and criminal advocacy after being brutally beaten by her niece and her niece’s significant other. Carrie was hospitalized for her injuries and had to undergo surgery to repair much of the damage ravaged on her body. The perpetrators believed Carrie was dead when they left her residence. They had beaten her, knocked her unconscious, and then continued to beat her, kick her, and jump on her body. Carrie had over $50,000 in medical bills and still required ongoing treatment. The DVIS Legal Staff assisted Carrie in applying for financial assistance through the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund and advised her creditors that a claim had been made to cover her medical expenses. Staff also tracked the criminal cases against both perpetrators over the course of approximately one-year through to completion, and staff was available to attend any hearings where Carrie might have to give testimony or a victim’s statement. Both perpetrators ultimately received substantial sentences for Assault and Battery with Intent to Kill. Legal staff was successful in securing a protective order against the niece, but the client allowed the second Protective Order to lapse after she relocated. Carrie came to a point in her life where she felt safe thanks to the help of DVIS.
Megan Martin, another attorney with DVIS/Call Rape tells the story of Danni, a mother of three young children. After many years of trying, she was finally able to leave her abusive husband. With the help of DVIS Legal, her divorce from her abusive husband was finalized right before Christmas and Danni was able to gain sole custody of all her children with supervised visits for the father. Since Danni has come to DVIS Legal seeking help, she has gained more independence and has been able to sever all ties with her abusive husband. They have not spoken since Danni filed for divorce last year and she is moving on to becoming a better mother thanks to the help of OBF Fellows. She recently sent a photo of her three smiling children that reads, “You put the smile on my children’s faces. Thank you.”
Robin Wilson, an attorney in the Oklahoma City office of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO), tells the story of Sandy who was 17 when she first came to LASO. Sandy’s mother died approximately eight years ago and she had been living with her father and step-mother. This past summer her father became violent with her. She filed a VPO and came to LASO for help. LASO assisted her in getting a three year final order. Before coming to LASO, Sandy went to live with a friend. The friend’s mother was instrumental in getting her set up with Circle of Care which is a girls’ group home in Tahlequah. LASO also assisted the friend’s mother in preparing a pro se guardianship. Robin walked through the paperwork with the guardian and got an emergency order so Sandy could go to Circle of Care. Her father was completely unresponsive in giving his consent for Sandy to be admitted to the group home. Now, Sandy is excelling. She turned 18 yesterday and the guardianship was dismissed this morning. Sandy had been haunted by leaving her younger brother behind in the abusive home. The bother’s situation became very bad and DHS recently took him into custody. The good news is that he will soon be placed with a maternal aunt who has been visiting Sandy at the group home. Sandy would have faced further violence had LASO not helped. She is now a happy high school senior with good grades and is college bound. After closing Sandy’s LASO case file, Robin concluded, “Today was a great day to be a lawyer!”
Your Oklahoma Bar Foundation is a proud supporter of both DVIS/Call Rape and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. OBF funds critical legal services for victims of domestic violence and will do so until there are no more Carrie, Danni and Sandy stories to tell. Thank you, Bronwen, Megan and Robin. You are the best of us. By providing support to those among us who give voice to the voiceless victims of domestic violence, OBF helps insure that there will be many more great days to be a lawyer.
Shon T. Erwin is president of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Bronwen Llewellyn may be reached at email@example.com; Megan Martin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Glenna Dorris may be reached at email@example.com.