JF&CS News Winter 2016

Journey to SafetyWhen Deborah*, a married mother of three young children, found a newsletter stuffed into her son's backpack, she noticed an advertisement that read, "If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is help. Contact the Jewish Domestic Violence Coalition." Stunned, but also empowered, she thought about contacting the organization. She thought she was the only person suffering in an abusive situation and didn't realize that it happened to other Jewish women.

Deborah called the number and was connected with a Jewish and highly-trained therapist who eventually referred her to JF&CS Journey to Safety (JTS).

With the help and support she and her children received from JTS, Deborah was able to safely leave her husband and get a divorce. Eventually she met and married a loving and respectful man – and then went to law school to begin a new career with the intention of helping other women experiencing domestic abuse.

Deborah now has her own law practice focused on family law and representing victims of domestic abuse. Not only does she volunteer her time on the JF&CS Bet Tzedek pro bono legal panel but she also works closely with JTS and our new legal service funded through VOCA (see article below).

Through this program, Deborah is making an enormous difference in the lives of survivors of domestic abuse. "I am honored to be part of JF&CS Journey to Safety because it has very special meaning for me," Deborah says. "I too was a victim of domestic abuse and JF&CS was there to help me and my children move forward with our lives. JF&CS also gave me the emotional and financial assistance I needed to deal with my husband's abusive behavior during and after our divorce. I decided to help others going through this experience and I entered law school. The most gratifying part of my work now as a family law attorney is helping people become empowered by the legal system, not destroyed by it. I will always be grateful to JF&CS for the help they gave me and I appreciate the opportunity to give back to victims of domestic abuse through the Journey to Safety reduced-fee legal program."

Did You Know?

Domestic abuse in the Jewish community happens at roughly the same rate as in the general population. It crosses demographic lines – geographic, denominational (Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Humanist, etc.), cultural, and financial.

While the myth that domestic abuse doesn't happen in the Jewish community might continue as an idealized cultural stereotype, the reality for some people in our community is quite different. Denial and silence allow abuse to continue and create barriers to survivors seeking help. Journey to Safety reaches out to the Jewish community with the goals of raising awareness and giving people the information they need to recognize abusive behavior and know how to respond if they see it.

VOCA renews funding of Journey to Safety

We are thrilled to announce that Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse, has recently received a renewal of our VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) grant through the Office for Victims of Crime at the US Department of Justice.

Included in the renewal of the VOCA grant is a new project for survivors of domestic abuse to receive emergency civil legal services. This allows JTS to provide legal services to survivors who are not able to afford legal counsel but may earn too much to qualify for pro bono legal services. Participating attorneys have training or experience in domestic abuse cases and are paid an hourly fee of $55, funded directly through the VOCA grant. Under a limited representation model, victims of domestic abuse are now eligible for up to 20 hours of free legal services. Attorneys have access to a mentoring attorney if they need advice on legal issues. This type of legal work is highly specialized so offering a connection between the attorneys and JTS provides an opportunity to share resources and best practices.

"In our first year these funds have provided 22 survivors of domestic abuse with legal representation," Elizabeth Schön Vainer, JTS Director, notes. "Our VOCA-funded project engages passionate attorneys to equalize the legal landscape so that survivors of domestic abuse, who otherwise would not be able to afford an attorney, are effectively represented in what are potentially life altering emergency civil legal hearings."

*Name changed to protect privacy.