A letter from AVLF Board Member and volunteer Elizabeth Finn Johnson.
Her face was broken. Her vision may never be the same.
Sarah (not her real name) is one of the thousands of survivors who come to the Safe Families Office, staffed by the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, to obtain a protective order against their abuser. He hit her so hard that she required surgery and a facial implant. We hear stories like Sarah’s every day.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the statistics are chilling. Domestic violence is not relegated to the four walls of a home – it can happen anywhere and anytime. It knows no race, gender, class, age, or sexual identity or orientation. One in three women and one in four men will experience some sort of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. Three women die every day in this country at the hands of an intimate partner. On average, it takes a woman seven times to finally leave her abuser. In 2017 alone, nearly 100 people died in Georgia as a result of intimate partner violence.
Domestic violence is everyone’s problem, and we need everyone to end it.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Safe Families Office is the only courthouse-based walk-in legal clinic in Georgia where a survivor can obtain assistance from a lawyer to navigate the protective order process, and we have been cited as a national model of excellence by the American Bar Association. We see more than 3000 survivors annually who have been kicked, punched, and threatened. They have been told over and over that they are worthless, and yet somehow, they find the courage to take action against their abusers. I have represented dozens of survivors, including Sarah, and I can tell you that a protective order is more than just a piece of paper – it is a survivor taking back power.
This month, and every month, AVLF is proud to stand with survivors as they seek the safety and security most of us take for granted. You can join us in this work – donate at AVLF.org, volunteer your time, educate yourselves and neighbors on these issues, and remember – if one third of all women and one quarter of all men will experience intimate partner violence, you already know people who are or have been hurt by an intimate partner. Domestic violence is everyone’s problem, and we need everyone to end it.
Consider volunteering. Consider donating. Talk to your friends and family about the importance of this issue. We’re counting on you.
Eizabeth Finn Johnson
Want to read other Letters From Leadership? They are an easy way to find out what drives us here at AVLF. You can find them all here.