SIDEBAR Spring 2017 - 19



Legal Aid of Southeastern PA Expands
Services forVictims of Domestic
Violence in Montgomery County
By Elizabeth Fritsch
Executive Director, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania


omestic abuse victims who have legal representation are
more likely to obtain protection orders than those who
do not. Unfortunately, the reality for an overwhelming
number of victims is that they must go to court alone because they
cannot afford legal help. In fact, the attorney who handles most of
Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse (PFA)
cases in Montgomery County estimates that up to 70% of victims
attend the hearing for a final order without an attorney. There are
simply not enough attorneys in the County providing free legal
services to victims seeking final protection orders.
With a recent grant from the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA),
LASP is now able to expand services for victims of domestic
violence in Montgomery County. VOCA was established in 1984
to help victims and victim service providers with program funding.
LASP will partner with the Montgomery County Bar
Association and the Women's Center of Montgomery County to
increase the availability of attorneys who are not only trained in the
law but educated to understand the dynamics of abuse and to take
a trauma-informed approach to serving these victims.
Using VOCA funding, LASP has hired a full-time Domestic
Violence Attorney, Beverly Boyle, and will soon hire a full-time
paralegal. Ms. Boyle and the paralegal will provide victims with
legal advice and representation. In addition, Ms. Boyle will work
with the Montgomery Bar Association's Pro Bono Coordinator to
recruit, train, and mentor pro bono attorneys to handle PFA cases.
VOCA funding will also allow LASP to serve victims of abuse
under the recent Sexual Assault and Intimidation law who have
been underserved in our area due to limited funding.

An important improvement and expansion of the services LASP
is able to provide is a new countywide toll free PFA Helpline
to make it easier for domestic abuse victims in Montgomery
County to connect directly with Ms. Boyle or the new paralegal
for legal assistance (1-855-980-6924). The Helpline is staffed
during business hours (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) and callers can leave a
message outside of those hours.
"I'm hoping that this program and the Helpline will increase
awareness of the service LASP provides, and that the Helpline will
make it easier for people to contact someone directly about filing a
PFA case quickly, because often they need to be filed really quickly,"
says Ms. Boyle.
Research indicates that domestic abuse victims with legal
representation are more likely to obtain protection orders than
those without attorneys. They are also likely to obtain orders that
last longer and include more protections. The research also shows
that victims who obtain a protection order feel safer and more
in control of their lives. This, in turn, makes it possible for them
to turn their attention to their own needs, and the needs of their
children. They are more able to make plans for their future, seek
employment or education, move ahead with a divorce, find other
permanent housing if needed, and in other ways begin to build a
new life.
To contact Ms. Boyle about volunteering as a PFA attorney,
please call 610-275-5400 ext. 136 or email

SPRING 2017 19

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