How to help domestic violence victims

Fixing our legal aid system is the first step to ending the vicious cycle of violence.

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Legal aid “significantly lowers the incidence of domestic violence.” That’s according to an extensive 2003 study in the US.

Economists Farmer & Tiefenthaler took an unprecedented look at how increasing social service provision affected the frequency of domestic violence during the 1990s. They found that increasing social service programs reduced the likelihood of abuse. However, no measure was more effective than the availability of legal aid, including shelters and emergency helplines.

Because legal services help women with practical matters (such as protective orders, custody, and child support) they appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships.

Another 2012 study from Alvarez & Marsal found an even more significant result; since intimate partner violence is a pattern of repetitive behaviour, a successful legal intervention avoids 1.76 incidents over the twelve months following the intervention.

Despite the importance of legal help for domestic violence survivors, access still remains an issue. Approximately half of the clients Women’s Aid support are eligible for legal aid and, of those who apply, 75% receive legal aid. This leaves over 60% of women with no access to legally aided representation.

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