The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on survivors of domestic violence. Isolation orders around the globe are compounding the risk for women, men and children who are not safe while sheltering at home with their abusers. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated the domestic violence crisis. Additional stressors such as unemployment, a dearth of escape options, and food insecurity have only made the situation worse for those already at risk of domestic violence.
In San Diego, lawyers have stepped up to the challenge by creating innovative ways to keep everyone safe while practicing social distancing. With courts around the state restricting the number of individuals coming onto their premises and shelters at capacity, lawyers are needed now more than ever to help victims stay safe. At the San Diego Family Justice, pro bono attorneys are providing weekly telephonic legal assistance to assist victims of domestic violence in filing restraining order petitions. The San Diego Family Justice Center, part of the Office of San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott, coordinates with numerous agencies, including the San Diego Police Department, to help survivors get the aid they need. By working with law enforcement, counselors, forensic medical nurses, and other social service providers, the center is uniquely able to bring together different institutions to eliminate the barriers that so often keep victims from fleeing violent relationships. In facilitating pro bono attorneys to represent survivors telephonically, the venter can obtain a police report for the client, a document often needed to prepare the restraining order.
These lawyers are making a difference every day, working collaboratively and creatively, even in these tough times. Recently, we asked them what inspires them to give back to the community.
Tanisha Bostick, founder of Bostic Legal, APC, explains: "Time and again I see women who have been strangled by their spouse. The empty promises, begging, and tears lead them back to their abusers. Often when I meet with them, they have been strangled more than once. Some of them also have been physically beaten and kicked while lying on the ground. Unfortunately, many survivors wait too long to get help and hide their bruises to ensure their abuser is not punished. It saddens me because I know that their abuser has been chipping away at their self-esteem and now there's nothing left. There is nothing more important than building these women up, giving them resources, and protecting them from their abusers."
Dave G. Hoiles Jr., office managing principal at Jackson Lewis in San Diego, maintains: "In a profession dedicated to achieving justice, attorneys have an obligation to help ensure that all individuals have equal access to our system of law and justice, regardless of their means. I take this obligation seriously and am fortunate that Jackson Lewis shares my commitment to giving back to the communities in which we practice. I also believe that in order to be an effective leader, one must lead by example. I cannot expect others to commit to volunteerism and value the importance of giving back to the San Diego community unless I am willing to do so myself. My mom volunteered at a women and children's crisis center when I was a kid. That always stuck with me and, when I was in a position to volunteer my time, chose a domestic violence clinic as a way to honor my mom's prior community service."
Rebecca Ritchey from Sibus Law Group says, "there is nothing more rewarding than sitting across from those survivors who are ready and know that there is more to life and helping him or her access opportunity and legal protection."
Sabrina Marroquin of People's Legal Services says, "Survivors of domestic violence often have difficulty sharing their experiences and seeking legal assistance. They are often left feeling unheard or invalidated for not reporting abuse sooner. I volunteer so survivors know there is always someone there to stand by and assist during a time they need it most."
Jose Orozco of the Orozco Law Firm believes that, "giving back to the community is what practicing law is all about. I am honored to provide my expertise to vulnerable populations." His and his colleagues' continuing contribution to our community serves as an inspiration to current and future lawyers alike.
These dedicated attorneys define what purpose-driven lawyering means.