Worth Reading: Good Lawyers, Bad Situations

The Domestic Violence Awareness Mural: "A Survivor's Journey" (2010) by Joel Bergner Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes

The Domestic Violence Awareness Mural: “A Survivor’s Journey” (2010) by Joel Bergner
Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what happens when good laws go bad. And those are only part of the problem.  All too often, the victims of violence, especially of domestic violence, find themselves trapped in an unending cycle of oppression and victimization.  Unfortunately, the law can easily become just one more stage in that cycle.

Which is why I’m so incredibly happy to send along this article from the inestimable Omaha World-Herald.  The article highlights the amazing work done by attorney Martha Lemar here at the Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic at Creighton University (among others). Attorney Lemar does yeoman’s work with victims of domestic violence.  She commits to them, offering them free or reduced cost legal assistance in numerous areas.

By providing service in this way, lawyers can help break the cycle of abuse. First, by providing legal assistance at crucial steps, attorneys help ensure that the rights of victims of domestic violence are vindicated and protected.  Moreover, by providing comprehensive legal services, rather than just isolated aid, attorneys can help cut through the knots and tangles that might seem overwhelming.  As the article notes:

She provides a key line of defense against an abuser who has so entrapped the victim physically or psychologically that she — and it is typically a she — feels stuck.

So Lemar, and the relatively few others like her who take on domestic violence cases, tries to unstick the victim.

This is fantastic work.  It is also, unfortunately, work that too often goes undone. Most, if not all, of the lawyers who practice in this field point out how overwhelmed they are, and how many more people need help. And this ignores the potential criminal issues as well. We may bemoan how few lawyers there are willing to go into this.  Yet, the deeper question remains of what do we do to protect victims, and, even more importantly, to undermine and reform the deeper social and political structures that allow abuse to not only happen, but to be hidden by abusers. That is the deeper question we can only begin to answer right now.

However, until we get those answers, it is incredibly exciting and consoling to see the work being done by people like Martha and the other women and men highlighted in this article.  Moreover, it is especially exciting for me to see this being done at a Catholic and Jesuit institution by women and men dedicated to the mission of the faith that does justice.  It is a fantastic example of collaboration, of the universal call to holiness, of the “fire that kindles other fires.”

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