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Attorneys coping with more domestic violence cases

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In mid-2012, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic devoted its family law attorney to handling only domestic violence cases. This was done as part of a partnership the legal clinic formed with the Julian Center in Indianapolis to help address a growing trend of abuse.

Domestic violence has been increasing in recent years along with what family law attorneys are observing as more anger and more meanness. The economy is a well-documented driver of the violent trend that shows as finances get tight in a household, the instance of abusive behavior rises. Although conventional wisdom holds that as the economy recovers and more people return to steady work, the abuse will decline, attorneys are not sure the trend will reverse itself.

abel Abel

“It concerns me,” said Indianapolis attorney Denise Hayden. “I don’t see it getting better because I don’t see that we’re doing anything to resolve the conflicts.”

Little research has been done to confirm or give a detailed overview to what attorneys say they are seeing. Yet, the rising violence is impacting how these lawyers practice. Sometimes the changes are subtle, but the increase translates into more time spent with a client, more patience and more vigilance.

The new partnership between the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and the Julian Center is just one reflection of more domestic violence victims needing help. Women, men and children can all be victims of abuse. The two organizations joined together, said Josh Abel, executive director of the clinic, in order to provide better service to people trying to flee their abusers.

In addition, the clinic is getting ready to launch a new program for domestic violence victims. The Victims Justice Program will offer legal services beyond family law, expanding into such areas as immigration law.

The need is there because of the recession, Abel said.

“My hope is that it will get better,” he continued, “but I anticipate we will be operating the program for a long time. I’m hopeful things will improve, but still there will always be a need.”

From July 2011 to June 2012, a total of 64 deaths in Indiana were caused by domestic abuse, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The number of abuse victims needing emergency shelter rose to 10,926 while another 21,794 were served through non-residential programs. This compares to the stats compiled from July 2010 to June 2011 when the state recorded 62 domestic violence deaths. Victims needing emergency shelter reached 10,742 and those treated in non-residential services totaled 20,044.

Judy Hester, founding partner of Brazill Hester P.C. in Indianapolis, has seen this increase in domestic violence in her own practice. She has encountered more instances of physical as well as emotional abuse with both men and women being the abuser. Families are hitting each other not only with their fists but also with what they say and, she pointed out, contrary to the popular nursery rhyme about sticks and stones, “words do hurt.”

Households have been thrown into disarray by the economic recession. Jobs have been lost, homes are in foreclosure, and families are under a tremendous stress. Indeed, many divorce cases have couples dividing debts rather than assets. Hester noted, the world is going through difficult times and as couples and families work through their problems, “more meanness, more venom” is coming into the home.

Being an attorney often in the middle of domestic turmoil, Hester stressed the importance of keeping in the right state of mind.

“I try my hardest to keep myself balanced and grounded so it doesn’t affect me because I won’t be as effective an advocate for my clients,” she said.

Hayden has been an attorney for 25 years. In the past, she could have a couple of domestic violence cases cross her desk in a year, but for the last four or five years, she has been getting such cases weekly. Along with the domestic violence, she has encountered more families struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. She recalled one client who was beat by her husband after she threw his prescription pills down the toilet.

Usually when a victim decides to seek legal help, something has happened that pushes him or her over the edge and to the decision to leave the relationship, Hayden said. Typically, these individuals figure because they have no money, their home is in foreclosure or underwater, they have nothing left to lose. Or, they have noticed their children mimicking the violent behavior and they do not want their children witnessing the abuse any longer.

However, getting away from an abusive marriage is difficult. Attorneys may have to set multiple appointments because victims often have trouble getting to places at set times. Also, these clients require a lot more handholding as they work through the divorce process and possibly file for protective orders.

Domestic violence victims do require more attention. A classic domestic violence case is very high maintenance, said Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, staff attorney at the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. These clients take more time and can create a special burden for the system, in part because the frequent use of mediation in divorces will not work in these cases.

“It’s not an issue handled well with a blunt force object and sometimes the system is a blunt force object,” Blomquist said. “One size does not fit all.”

dcomesticThe result, she said, are cases slipping through the cracks and people not being held directly accountable. In turn, when the system does not work, that can have a chilling effect with victims choosing not to access the legal system. 

Hayden counsels her abused clients on the seemingly minute details of their lives, for example, instructing them to lock the car doors after they drop off their children to spend time with the ex-spouse. Sometimes clients will want to rush the proceedings under the impression that the courts are stacked against them and their ex-spouse will get everything anyway.  

Other times, a client will ask that Hayden get a protective order dropped. Hayden will first instruct that client to put that request in writing; then Hayden will tell the client she intends to write a letter back refusing to do so.

On top of all this, Hayden is more attentive and even hyper vigilant. In the courtroom, she is aware who is in the room, who is in the hallway, and who is exiting so as to keep the parties away from each other.

Both Hayden and Blomquist questioned if the rise in violence is not also a reflection that people do not know what a healthy relationship can be.

Working at the ICADV, Blomquist has always encountered the meanness other lawyers have been noticing in recent years, but she attributes the violence to the economy as well as to the culture. She teaches a domestic violence class at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and as part of the course, she shows the students a popular music video to “Love The Way You Lie” which depicts rapper Eminem and singer Rihanna in a violent and sexual relationship.

“I don’t know if we know how to behave anymore,” Blomquist said. “Sometimes I wonder if there is enough preaching from the powers that be on what exactly civil and uncivil behavior is.”•

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  1. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  2. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

  3. Low energy. Next!

  4. Had William Pryor made such provocative statements as a candidate for the Indiana bar he could have been blackballed as I have documented elsewhere on this ezine. That would have solved this huuuge problem for the Left and abortion industry the good old boy (and even girl) Indiana way. Note that Diane Sykes could have made a huuge difference, but she chose to look away like most all jurists who should certainly recognize a blatantly unconstitutional system when filed on their docket. See footnotes 1 & 2 here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html Sykes and Kanne could have applied a well established exception to Rooker Feldman, but instead seemingly decided that was not available to conservative whistleblowers, it would seem. Just a loss and two nice footnotes to numb the pain. A few short years later Sykes ruled the very opposite on the RF question, just as she had ruled the very opposite on RF a few short years before. Indy and the abortion industry wanted me on the ground ... they got it. Thank God Alabama is not so corrupted! MAGA!!!

  5. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

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