August 24, 2020
Delivery of services to Nevada domestic violence (DV) survivors is more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. For that reason, customary service providers such a shelters, courts, self-help centers, legal aid, rape crisis and law enforcement have all adjusted their practices and procedures to meet the needs of victims.
Stakeholders and service providers have adopted low to no contact audio, video and general remote delivery of services in order to protect both clientele and staff members from exposure to the virus, but they are getting the job done.
The Impact of COVID-19
During the first few weeks of the “shut down” phase related to Covid-19, reports of domestic violence went down likely because of victim isolation with abusers. However, upon Nevada’s initial emergence from the shutdown, victims increasingly reported victimization to police, shelters and court services for protection orders.
For instance, Safe Nest, the largest shelter and domestic violence service provide experienced about a 70% increase in hotline calls. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept., Safe Nest, the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCEDSV) and the Family Law Self Help Center (managed and operated by Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada) all reported significant increase in demand for services once the shutdown order was partially lifted.
The Numbers in Nevada
Even before Covid-19 erected challenges to delivery of services to domestic violence victims, Nevada led the nation in DV victimization. Nevada is uniquely burdened when it comes to intimate partner violence. The Violence Policy Center ranks the states annually for the number intimate partner homicides against women. The chart below demonstrates consistently high ranking for the “Silver State” which was number 1 five times between 2004 and 2017, and only missed top 5 ranking twice in fourteen years.
|2004 #5||2005 #1||2006 #1||2007 #5||2008 #1||2009 #1||2010 #1|
|2011 #20||2012 #6||2013 #5||2014 #3||2015 #2||2016 #3||2017 #4|
Moreover, women in Nevada are 65% more likely to be shot to death by intimate partners than women nationwide, according to an Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI data.
Nevada also has the fifth highest rate of domestic violence gun murder of any state in the country. Therefore, victims of domestic violence in our state are at the highest statistical risk levels for harm. Therefore, the need for the domestic violence trained attorneys provided by the Legal Aid Center are critically important to stem the adverse effects of domestic violence to victims and children.
The Family Justice Project at Work
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s Family Justice Project (FJP) has prioritized direct representation of domestic violence survivors in divorce, custody and protection order cases since 2001 and that has not changed since the challenges presented by Covid-19.
In fact, it is more important than ever that legal services continue to be available to victims and children given the rise in violence as a result of people being stuck together in close quarters where alcohol and/or drug abuse may also be a factor. Data suggest that emotional, verbal, financial and physical violence by abusers has increased due to pressures related to lack of money, job insecurity or unemployment.
Outcomes of Family Law Cases
Family law case outcomes often forecast whether a victim has the money to afford basic life necessities such as food, rent and utility payments. It may also govern whether violence, abuse or neglect will be tolerated or put to an end by court order. Therefore, the work of FJP is of critical consequence during these times of record uncertainty and economic instability.
Before and during the pandemic, ten FJP staff attorneys rotate responsibilities to ensure that family court litigants receive the benefit of experienced, trained domestic violence attorneys. In addition to direct representation in family court, FJP attorneys also continue to provide legal information and counsel and advice to shelter clients and family court litigants in general.
Classes Supervised by FJP Attorneys
FJP attorneys also supervise free community legal education classes in the areas of divorce, custody and immigration. These classes are offered weekly, in English and Spanish, and a free service in partnership with the William S. Boyd School of Law to provide education and insight into family law and immigration topics to members of the community.
The Immigration Advocacy Program is a sub-unit of FJP at Legal Aid Center. Our immigration attorneys provide both direct representation and counsel and advice to victims qualified under the U-Visa and VAWA programs for legal status. Child immigrants applying for DACA and/or Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status are also supported by FJP immigration attorneys in order to serve the holistic needs of our local community.
For more information about the Family Justice Project or the free family law and immigration classes offered through The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, visit www.lacsn.org.
Paul Padda Law is a proud sponsor of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s Community Justice Fellowship.
April S. Green, Esq.
Directing Attorney, Family Justice Project
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Inc.