Denver Bar Association
October 2010
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Working To Prevent Family Violence: 10 Questions for Kathleen Schoen


Kathleen SchoenOctober is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Docket recently sat down with Kathleen Schoen, the Colorado Bar Association’s Director of Local Bar Relations and Access to Justice, to talk about how this issue impacts lawyers and families alike. Schoen, Jill Lafrenz, Denise Kay, and two law students coordinate and staff the programs of the Colorado Bar Association’s Family Violence Program, as well as local bar relations and access to justice.

The Docket: You were recently were recognized with the Sharon Corbitt Award from the American Bar Association. Tell us why you were recognized and what the award means to you?

Schoen: I was recognized as a lawyer who has provided exceptional service to victims of domestic violence in the spirit of Sharon Corbitt. Sharon Corbitt was an Oklahoma lawyer who served on the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, as well as chair of the ABA Family Violence Section. She was involved in systemic reform, as well as direct representation of those involved in family violence.

After 25 years of working in the area family violence prevention and intervention in many legal arenas, it was amazing to be recognized by the American Bar Association. More important, the award recognized all that the Colorado Bar Association and its members have accomplished. That is really important, going back to the 1996 Family Violence Task Force. Lawyers in this state have had an incredible role in the attempt to end family violence.

TD: Why is it important to have a month dedicated to education about issues related to domestic violence?

S: If we had any idea the impact this had on our society, especially our children, we would have a whole year dedicated to this issue. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is really meant to bring the issue of domestic violence to the fore.

TD: What is the most important thing the legal community can do to help raise awareness of and eliminate domestic violence?

S: To truly understand the dynamics of power and control that is a major part of the majority of these relationships. This has a huge impact on children in these families for the rest of their lives.

TD: What makes a domestic violence case different from other cases?

S: You’re dealing with ongoing relationships, especially where children are involved. You’re dealing with issues that have an impact on these parties and their children for years to come. You’re dealing with societal attitudes about violence and its impact. These cases are often very emotional and often lead to burn-out by the professionals dealing with the parties. We do not want to think people exert such power and control over others, especially their families and pets. For these reasons it is hard for people, including professionals, to see what is going on in these cases until something drastic has happened.

TD: How can lawyers better prepare themselves for cases involving domestic violence?

S: They can educate themselves and they can consult with those who understand domestic violence as a power-and-control issue.

TD: What is the best way for lawyers to learn more about domestic violence?

S: There are a lot of great resources for the legal community:

 

TD: What is being done locally so that more victims of domestic violence have access to justice?

S: In many ways, Colorado is on the cutting edge in its response to family violence. We still have a long way to go. Some programs designed specifically for victims include:

  • Family Violence Justice Fund, which is a state allocation for civil legal assistance for victims of family violence.
  • 60 domestic violence service programs, many of which have advocates willing to support victims through the legal system
  • Colorado Legal Services and the pro bono programs throughout the state provide legal assistance to domestic violence victims. (A U.S. Centers for Disease Control study found that one of the major factors in a domestic violence victim not returning to the abusive relationship is access to legal services.)

TD: What plans do you and the CBA Family Violence Program have in the coming year?

S: We are focusing on community coordination for all professionals in the justice system to identify all victims of family violence, including intimate partners, children, elders and animals. We are also working with family law experts and the courts to look at the domestic relations system and to enhance the response to families involved in family violence in the court system. We continue to work with employers on dealing with the impact of domestic violence on the workplace.

TD: What is your ultimate goal while serving as director of the Family Violence Program?

S: The ultimate goal is that Colorado families have healthy relationships and children are able to grow and thrive.

TD: What resources are available to learn more or to seek help?

S: There are a lot of resources available.

For victims:

♦ Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, www.ccadv.org, provides a list of domestic violence service providers around the state.

National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.ndvh.org, provides crisis hotline assistance for domestic violence victims across the country: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY).

For those who use violence:

Colorado Department of Safety, Division of Criminal Justice provides a list of certified counselors for those who use violence: dcj.state.co.us/odvsom/domestic_violence/providers.html and standards for sexual offenders: dcj.state.co.us/odvsom/sex_offender/index.html.

For children:

Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect: www.kempe.org.

Many domestic violence service programs have children’s programs to help children deal with the impact of family violence. (See list of service providers, www.ccadv.org).

The following are resources for lawyers:

American Prosecutors Research Institute, www.ndaa-apri.org, provides the voice of America’s Prosecutors and supports their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people.

Colorado Legal Services, www.coloradolegalservices.org, offers help for low-income Coloradans seeking legal information dealing with civil legal matters only. No assistance is available for issues dealing with traffic violations or criminal matters.

Family Violence Prevention Fund, www.endabuse.org, reaches out to new audiences including men and youth, promoting leadership within communities to ensure that violence prevention efforts become self-sustaining and transforming the way health-care providers, police, judges, employers, and others address violence.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), www.ncadv.org, is based in Colorado. NCADV’s work includes coalition building at the local, state, regional and national levels; support for the provision of community-based, non-violent alternatives; public education and technical assistance; policy development and innovative legislation; focus on the leadership of NCADV’s caucuses and task forces developed to represent the concerns of organizationally under represented groups; and efforts to eradicate social conditions that contribute to violence against women and children.

♦ NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, www.nowldef.org, uses the power of the law to define and defend women’s rights.

Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, www.ncjfcj.org/dept/fvd/res_center, works to provide access to the best possible source of information and tangible assistance to those working in the field of domestic violence and child protection and custody.

Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, www.rockymountainchidrenslawcenter.org, provides maltreated children with critical legal services while they are in foster care, educating the community about their struggles, and pursuing public policy reform.

Stalking Resource Center, www.ncvc.org/src, has a dual mission to raise national awareness of stalking and to encourage the development and implementation of multidisciplinary responses to stalking in local communities across the country.

Tribal Court Clearinghouse, www.tribal-institute.org, is devoted to providing information to people working in Native American tribal courts. The Tribal Court Clearinghouse is designed as a resource for tribal justice systems and others involved in the enhancement of justice in Indian country.


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