Clinic that helps domestic violence victims faces own mortality

Part of Teresa Drake’s job as director of the UF Law Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Clinic is ensuring her clients’ survival. Another part is ensuring survival of the clinic itself.

A $1.2 million U.S. Department of Justice grant supporting the clinic expires in 2013, and to keep the program rolling, the money must keep flowing. Drake took a step in that direction during a March presentation to a group of University of Florida alumni looking for philanthropic investments at the university.

Drake explained to the alumni how the law school collaborates with the college of medicine, Shands Healthcare, and Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network to provide low-income, intimate-partner violence victims with legal, medical, and social services focused on victim and family safety.

She said referrals to the clinic from area prosecutors have skewed toward higher risk cases.

A vivid example of this came in September when one of the clinic’s clients arrived at her Lake City home with her 5-year-old son to find her ex-husband holed up inside. The man set off tear gas bombs in her house, shot two police officers in the leg and one in the arm with a rifle, then killed himself rather than surrender.

But the woman and her son were well clear of the violence. Clinic personnel had obtained an order of protection from the court, and the client followed advice from counselors when she saw her exhusband’s car in the driveway. She drove to the police station rather than confronting him.

“But for the specialized training our students receive, Tanya and her five-year-old son might not be alive today,” Drake said.

In November at the law school, Drake and her students raised donations of clothes, household items and retail gift cards to help the mother and son start over.

Drake is hoping alumni will do the same for the domestic violence clinic. “We’re hoping to find alumni so we can continue this program.”

For more information about the clinic go to www.law.ufl.edu/clinics/civil/ipvac/index.shtml.