IPVAC granted $300,000 to continue to serve
By Jenna Box (4JM)
The Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic has been saving lives for nearly four years now, and it can continue to for another two thanks to nearly $300,000 in grant funding from the Department of Justice/Office of Violence Against Women.
The clinic, which opened in June 2010, is the only one of its kind in the United States and the only law school clinic that has received this grant, said IPVAC Director Teresa Drake.
In the four years it’s been running, the IPVAC has been primarily funded through this grant, which will have brought in more than $1 million to the law school by 2015. With this money, IPVAC has helped more than 400 victims of intimate partner violence and trained more than 5,500 professionals on how to screen for this critical issue.
IPVAC partners with UF’s College of Medicine, UFHealth, Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network and the Alachua County Sherriff’s Office to assist victims of domestic, dating and sexual violence with legal representation in such matters as injunctions for protection and child custody, mental health counseling and case management needs in North Central Florida. The funding allows Drake to not only run the legal clinic, but also to train second-year medical students about screening for intimate partner violence. It also covers other overhead expenses such as a licensed clinical social worker, a victim advocate and a program assistant.
The clinic is unique in that it trains law school externs, certified legal interns and advanced certified legal interns in a multidisciplinary approach to help law students represent, on average, four to six clients per term, with the opportunity to speak in court at least once a term. IPVAC is also the only free legal resource for immigration law in North Central Florida, representing clients from more than 21 countries with U-visas and other federal relief.
About two years ago, a mother of three came to the clinic after her husband’s criminal trial had been continued for another month. He had been pressuring her to recant when the woman met with one of the clinic’s certified legal interns, Genevieve Turner (JD 11), to ask about getting him to stop contacting her.
Two days before the hearing, Turner conducted lethality assessments, planned for safety and prepared for the final hearing. In court, they obtained an injunction for protection. Additionally, Turner asked the court to order that the woman’s husband relinquish all of his firearms to the sheriff’s office within 24 hours.
That evening and the next morning, Turner talked to the woman about her safety plans and arranged for her to meet with the clinic’s mental health counselor and outreach case manager.
Hours later when the woman pulled into her driveway, she noticed her husband’s vehicle hidden behind the house. Following her safety plan, she backed out and went directly to the police department. As officers approached the house, the woman’s husband came outside with an automatic rifle and shot three officers.
After a seven-hour standoff, the man detonated homemade tear gas bombs in the house and killed himself. It is believed that he would have taken the life of his wife and their son who was in the car with her should she have entered the house, Drake said.
“That case helped me to realize that it takes more than sound legal advice and good lawyering skills to help clients in need,” Turner said, reinforcing the multidisciplinary approach CLI’s are trained in. “I was gratified that I had been able to help our client and grateful to Drake for providing me with the necessary tools to do so.”
“That is almost as bad as it gets,” Drake said. “That was a real eye-opening experience.”
Sabrina Jadunandan (3L) is a certified legal intern and has been working in the clinic since she was a 1L.
“There is no better feeling of … fulfillment than being able to help someone in their time of need,” Jadunandan said. “I have seen clients build themselves up and lead successful lives after they have been stuck in an abusive relationship. The client’s development of empowerment and confidence is contagious and I cannot help but be very proud to be a part of the process. IPVAC is a rewarding experience and I feel like I have made a difference in many … lives.”
Every semester IPVAC has expanded its services, she said.
“It will be really exciting to see how far the students can push the boundaries with IPVAC,” Jadunandan said. “One of my personal goals is to write a T-VISA (a visa for human trafficking victims) through the clinic.”