PurSHOEing Justice Welcoming Remarks

Every nine seconds – every nine seconds – a woman in the US is the victim of domestic violence. Every nine seconds. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. One in four.

Good evening. My name is Michael Lucas and I have the privilege of being the Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. Our Safe Families Office is the place where AVLF – through our volunteers – literally saves lives. By watching – and getting more involved in – the amazing work that we do in that program over my seven years at AVLF, I have learned a lot about intimate partner violence. I have learned that it touches everyone. Again: one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Everyone in this room has a connection to this issue. For some it may be a friend or a sister. For others, it may be much more personal than that. For me, as a father of two young daughters, I sometimes look out over our little cul-de-sac at all the young girls running wild and carefree – our neighborhood is completely overrun with girls all around the same age (that is fine, because as my six year old says, “girls rule, boys drool”) – I look out at all those kids and, well, and I do the math. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. I just do the math. This epidemic touches us all.

I have also learned that it takes a community – a team effort and a holistic approach – to really effectively stand with a survivor and help her break that cycle. There are so many examples of that in this room tonight – and that goes for pulling an event like this off as well. So briefly – and not giving their recognition the time it so deserves – I want to thank the folks that made tonight possible:

  • All of our generous King & Spalding friends, but especially Pam Anders, Rose Hunter Jones, and Chris Underwood.
  • Ashley Heintz, event chair, and her father, Bob Frazier, who is so generous with his design talents.
  • Elizabeth Finn Johnson and Jennifer Jackson, who dreamed up this party four years ago.
  • Amy Wall, Rachel Fox Weitz, Jen Alewine, and Michelle Davis.
  • Particular thanks to PwC’s Lauren Beight, Lauren Angius, and Davida Jones, without whom this silent auction would not be such a success. Carey told me to make a big fuss about you all!
  • Hector and Gerard with Coast2Coast Catering.
  • Our vendors Laurie Taglialatela with Stella & Dot and Meg Hamill with Rodan + Fields (GO SHOP, people) and Robert with Chanel at Saks who is offering mini-makeovers. (I’ll see you in a second, Robert.)
  • The 501 Auctions team, particularly Kailee Phelps. We cannot recommend their services highly enough.
  • The Daily Report. Thank you.
  • And finally, Walt Davis, who – because of his own dietary demands – personally made sure that there would be beer at this party.

As for that team effort and holistic approach, at AVLF we know that it takes providing top-notch legal representation that helps a survivor have that confidence to keep fighting. Our amazing volunteers provide that every time. And we know that it takes more than that, which is why our partnership with PADV is so critical. Which is why – thanks in part to all of your support – we added a social worker to our staff, new legal staff, an office administrator, and a now nationally recognized Family Law pro bono program for survivors, where experienced and amazingly generous members of the matrimonial bar take on pro bono clients and offer services – and freedom – never before part of a pro bono program.

AVLF Safe Families Office staff, please wave your hands. If you have volunteered for any of our domestic violence and family law programs, please raise your hand. Those amazing staff and many of those volunteers are here – and I encourage you to find them and learn more about our work.

Now all of the people I’ve recognized and all the work that went into adding those supports at AVLF – while amazing – pale in comparison to the strength required, the strength exhibited by our survivors every day by our survivors who first stand up and make it to the door of the Safe Families Office. What they overcome, the surviving that they have pulled off over the years to protect their children, to try to salvage something that ultimately couldn’t be – the bravery they summon, is, to me, unimaginable and the most impressive part of the difficult process of standing up and breaking free. And – pardon my language – we at AVLF will be damned if we don’t do everything in our power to stand with them and provide them with every support we can.

It is my honor tonight to introduce one such hero, one who summoned that strength to survive and then that bravery to break free. Tameka Webb’s story – as I think is usually the case – is best told in her own voice. I will, therefore, keep it short and let her tell it.

But by way of introduction I want you to know that Tameka is veteran, having joined the Air Force in 2004. She is a wonderful mother of five. (Bless you for that service as well!) She is, I am told, unfailingly sweet and positive and friendly regardless of the circumstances she is facing. And she is also a survivor – a client of AVLF – and, specifically, one of the first clients of AVLF’s groundbreaking Family Law Program in partnership with Legal Aid.

Tameka, I don’t think I could ever be as strong as you and I am in awe of everything you’ve accomplished in your life. I’m proud that AVLF has been able to represent you. AVLF and PADV’s Safe Families Office had 2,900 visitors last year. I wish, Tameka, that we did not meet under these circumstances, but I am glad you are one of those who made it to our door, and we are honored that we are able to represent you. It continues to be our honor to stand with Tameka.

Will you all please join me in welcoming – and standing with – Tameka Webb.