Our Advocacy Team
At Denton County Friends of the Family the work our legal advocates do ensures clients facing the risk of harm have access to safety, hope, and justice. Our expert advocates provide support, access to resources, court accompaniment and overall help clients navigate the legal system. Last month alone we provided 478 legal services to victims of violence right here in Denton County. All of these services are provided at no cost to the victims.
Let's dive in a little more about talk about the type of legal services we provide.
At Friends of the Family we have a team of legal advocates and an on staff attorney. Let's talk about the difference between the two. A legal advocate screens clients and then will refer them to legal services. They work to consult with clients and help them access the legal system. An advocate does not give legal advice but will refer them to our staff attorney or other legal resources based upon their individual needs. Our advocates will also discuss safety planning, shelter options, counseling opportunities, and all the available resources to each victim/survivor during the initial appointment.
So, why is this important?
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence report - Honoring Texas Victims, in 2015 there were 158 women killed by an intimate partner, 37% of which had taken steps to end the relationship. Young women between the ages of 20-39 made up more than half of those victims. We know that oftentimes the most dangerous time for a victim is when she is trying to leave her abuser. TCFV explains that "leaving does not equal safety & safety is much more than leaving." That's where our advocates come in! Ensuring that a legal safety plan is in place for a victim of violence is just one of the many ways our advocates work with clients.
The legal advocacy team at Denton County Friends of the Family works to help clients navigate the complicated laws around family violence and connect them to the proper resources. Think about this- it's not like a Law & Order episode where everything can be solved in an hour. Understanding the legal system is much more complex. Knowing what is available, what paperwork needs to be completed, who you need to talk to, where you can get help, all while balancing the trauma occuring in your family...it can be confusing and overwhelming. Our advocates help clients with all of these things and more based upon their individual family needs.
Friends of the Family legal advocates work closely with the District Attorney's Office and our licensed staff attorney Donna Bloom. Ms. Bloom consults on legal questions, provides training on relevant legal issues, and collaborates with legal service providers to help increase the availability of resources for our clients. Based upon information gathered during the initial appointment our advocates will refer clients to best resource whether it's our staff attorney or outside attorneys or organizations.
We want to give a huge thank you and shout out to some of the organizations who help our clients access legal resources:
Legal Aid of Norwest Texas
Texas Rio Grand Legal Aid
Texas Advocacy Project
Texas Legal Services Center
Legal advocacy is an incredibly important part of a victim's safety planning. Leaving an abusive relationship is very dangerous, which is why it is so important to speak to an advocate beforehand so that there is a safety plan in place. If anyone discloses to you that they are in an abusive relationship encourage them to call our 24 hour crisis line to learn more, 800-572-4031.
How Can You Help? You can support our advocacy work by making a donation today.
Want to learn more about legal advocacy, check out TCFV's resources here.