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What Legal and Financial Services Do Domestic Violence Programs Provide?

New Data Sizes Up Role Played by Programs in Often Critical Step to Escaping Violence

January 13, 2015

The website domesticshelters.org has collected data on 15 different legal and financial services provided by domestic violence programs in the U.S. and found that the most commonly provided service is court accompaniment and advocacy (provided by 84.0% of programs) and that the least commonly provided service is legal clinics (provided by 14.1% of programs).

“Because legal assistance can be critical when escaping and preventing violence, and because abusers often withhold financial resources from their victims as a method of control, the provision of legal and financial services are central to moving beyond a violent domestic situation,” said Anita Hildreth, executive director of Theresa's Fund which operates DomesticShelters.org.

The next most common in-house legal and financial services, based on the percentage of domestic violence programs offering them, are assistance with orders of protection (84.0%), court legal/lay assistance (67.9%) and financial empowerment training (63.3%). The next least commonly provided legal and financial services are child custody services (17.4%), legal representation (17.7%) and court/legal assistance from an attorney (23.8%).

“Though domestic violence occurs across all socio-economic strata, it is more common in lower income and less educated situations, which can make accessing the legal system challenging because it can be complex and costly,” added Hildreth. “We applaud the many programs for their huge contributions, and encourage them to find ways to ramp up these critical resources.”

The other legal and financial services tracked by domesticshelters.org include legal resource planning (51.2%), attorney referrals for orders of protection (50.9%), attorney referrals for family court (47.1%), attorney referrals for crimical cases (43.0%), in-shelter financial aid (36.4%), expert testimony (31.7%) and immigration services (27.1%).

The data shows that the five states where domestic violence organizations score highest for comprehensiveness of legal and financial services – based on the frequency with which each type of legal and financial service is being provided by each domestic violence program – are Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, New Mexico and Nevada.

In addition to legal and financial services, domesticshelters.org is gathering data on other service categories – such as emergency services, counseling services, housing services, support services and children’s services – and a total of 46 individual services within those categories. The website is also gathering data on utilization of services, community education, languages and populations served, and operating budgets and funding sources.

More than 3,000 domestic violence programs are identified on domesticshelters.org and varying levels of information exist on each. The information on each program is self-reported and can include up to 156 data points for each program. Researchers involved in analyzing the data say that the information has a +/- 3% degree of accuracy at a 95% confidence level when viewed on a national basis.

The database behind domesticshelters.org is the largest of its kind ever created, and importantly, gives users of the website the ability to enter their location, language and service preferences, and with a single mouse click, instantly see the most proximate, relevant opportunities for help.

According to Google more than 3,000,000 searches are conducted per month for information related to domestic violence, and most often related to seeking help. The website is optimized for smartphone and tablet use, recognizing that consumers are increasingly using their devices to conduct searches. In fact, nearly half of the website’s visitors are from mobile devices.

About Theresa’s Fund

Theresa’s Fund is an Arizona-based 501(c)3 non-profit charity started in 1992 by Preston V. McMurry, Jr. Originally, and at a time when domestic violence wasn’t yet a headline, Theresa’s Fund focused on changing the landscape of domestic violence services in its home state through grant making, board development and fundraising for Arizona-based organizations like East Valley Child Crisis Center, Sojourner Center, Florence Crittenden, Emerge, UMOM, and West Valley Child Crisis Center. In 2014, it developed the DomesticShelters.org concept as a way to expand its reach to people across the U.S./Canada. DomesticShelters.org is the first online and mobile searchable database of programs and shelters in the U.S./Canada, and a leading source of helpful tools and information for people experiencing and working to end domestic violence.