Our Survivor Support program (staff attorneys and program staff) provides representation to survivors of domestic violence in their family law (divorce, custody) and protection order proceedings.
"Sandra" entered our program as a referral from our partners at YWCA Clark County's SafeChoice program. She was experiencing what we call "coercive control".
Coercive Control is a form of domestic violence that includes patterns of threats, humiliation, intimidation, or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten. It works to make a survivor dependent on their abuser by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behavior. Until recently, it was difficult for this to bear the same weight in court proceedings as physical abuse. Coercive Control was added to the Washington state definition of domestic violence in July 2022.
Our Survivor Support Managing Attorney worked closely with advocates at the YWCA Clark County Sandra's case. We were very concerned about this case because we were not sure if the courts would recognize the merit of a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) based on coercive control alone. In short, it was a fairly novel argument for our courts.
Our attorney and YWCA advocates coordinated this client safely leaving her home and the filing of a DVPO which covered her and her two young children. The temporary order was granted and our attorney began writing and filing supportive materials. Finally, the DVPO was granted for a year to include Sandra and both children. It is believed this was the first DVPO in Clark County argued and won based only on the presence of coercive control.
Only because of our dedicated and specially trained staff, and our vital partnership with YWCA Clark County, have we been able to secure safety and return dignity to women like Sandra.
To provide and facilitate access to justice for low-income individuals and marginalized communities through advocacy and civil legal services.
What We Do
The Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program (“CCVLP”) is a civil legal aid non-profit organization on a mission to provide and facilitate access to justice for low-income individuals and marginalized communities through advocacy and civil legal services. Generally, low-income people with criminal matters are guaranteed public defenders if they cannot afford an attorney. That is not true for clients experiencing civil legal issues (like divorce, custody, domestic violence, or the need for debt defense). For over 30 years, volunteer attorneys have helped CCVLP provide this much needed civil legal advice and assistance.
We utilize specialized staff attorneys to provide advice, brief services, and full representation to tenants facing eviction and survivors of domestic violence. Over 100 volunteer attorneys provide one-on-one advice and some representation to clients with issues in family law (divorce, custody, minor parents and CPS- involved family law), housing justice (landlord/tenant disputes), bankruptcy and debt defense, elder law (end of life planning and elder abuse), general law (contracts, transactions), immigration, and lay guardianship.
Regardless of the level of services we are able to provide, we recognize our organization works within a system that has functioned to keep our clients (people who are low income, people with disabilities, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community) down. We challenge this system by supporting unrepresented individuals as they navigate the justice system and by calling out inequity in the courts when we see it.
Why Your Donation Matters
No one should be forced to leave their home and have an eviction on their record because they don't know their rights. When tenants receive help from our lawyers, they are much more likely to find a solution that is fair to both sides.
Legal assistance is the single most important factor in empowering survivors to escape the cycle of domestic violence. While 71% of low-income Washington residents experience at least 1 civil legal problem, 100% of all domestic violence or sexual assault survivors experience life-altering civil legal problems. In Washington state, low-income survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault experience an average of 20 legal problems each year.
Our neighbors deserve fair resolutions to problems that threaten their families, homes and livelihoods, regardless of their financial resources.
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