Legal lift for domestic violence victims

Working with a number of Madison-area attorneys to offer pro bono legal assistance, DAIS is able to address a primary reason domestic violence victims often stay with their abuser — economic dependence.

Read part one of this story here.

There are a lot of reasons domestic violence victims stay with their abuser — fear, low self-esteem, economic dependence, children, pets, hope for change, pressure from friends and family, not knowing help is available, and many, many more.

Money is actually a major reason victims don’t feel like they can leave their abuser. Victims may not leave because they’re scared that they won’t have enough money to support themselves or their children.

One thing victims shouldn’t have to worry about during their time of need is legal help, which is why Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Madison partners with a number of local legal firms to provide pro bono legal assistance for its clients.

According to DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry, approximately 90% of DAIS clients are not able to afford legal representation.

DAIS offers a Legal Advocacy Program to provides support, information, advocacy, and court accompaniment to individuals who are experiencing intimate partner violence or stalking. However, DAIS legal advocates are not attorneys and do not give legal advice, notes Barry. “Partnering with law firms is critical to offering that needed service, as many victims may not have the resources to hire an attorney themselves.”

Since 2012, DAIS has partnered with Quarles & Brady LLP to represent DAIS clients in getting restraining order injunctions. “As the need for more lawyers grew, Quarles & Brady began engaging other law firms to ensure DAIS clients received legal representation,” Barry explains. Current law firms supporting DAIS clients include: Community Justice, Boardman Clark, Von Briesen & Roper, Hawks Quindel, Merchant Gould, and Quarles & Brady.

The services provided by the pro-bono work fall into two categories — restraining orders and legal clinics, says Barry. DAIS assists clients in filing for a temporary restraining order and then refers the clients to Quarles & Brady where they will be matched with an attorney. The attorney will then help the client strategize and provide representation during the injunction hearing. After the injunction hearing the obligation of the attorney ends.

“Working with Quarles & Brady to connect clients with the legal representation they need to increase their safety is nothing short of lifesaving,” Barry says. “[Conversely], the law firms that support DAIS clients with free legal representation do so from a desire to do good in the community. Many of the attorneys involved report that they value this partnership and opportunity to change someone’s life.”

DAIS also offers legal clinics for its clients. Legal clinics are one-time meetings with an attorney to tackle a specific need. These clinics last one hour and can help a client address a number of concerns including: family court matters, housing, personal property, criminal investigation, or immigration. These are not ongoing meetings but meant to be a one-hour session to provide guidance and information.



Support at work

Because money is a primary concern for many domestic violence victims, the last thing he or she needs is to worry about job security because of a need to take care of legal matters.

“The most important thing that an employer can do to support an employee with legal proceedings is to be flexible and allow them time — paid or unpaid, depending on the employer’s policies — away from work to meet with their attorney or legal advocate and to attend hearings,” Barry notes.

Community service

Since 1977, DAIS has offered a wide array of crisis intervention and community education/prevention programs, including a 24-hour Help Line, programming for children from violent homes, legal advocacy, support groups, emergency safety planning, prevention programming, community education, and the only emergency domestic violence shelter for all of Dane County.

In 2016, DAIS handled over 17,000 calls to its Help Line, fielded over 1,000 face-to-face contacts with people seeking services, and provided legal advocacy services to over 350 Dane County victims.

All DAIS services are free and confidential. The DAIS Help Line can be reached 24/7 at (608) 251-4445.

Additional legal resources

Legal guidance to victims is also available at In addition to the general advice provided and shared resources, victims can also find a questions and answers section based on previous responses given by a retired judge.

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