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Sierra Marling

Kentucky has the second-highest rate of domestic violence in the United States. A $10,000 grant from WellCare has empowered AppalReD Legal Aid attorneys who are assisting survivors of domestic violence by giving them a small financial boost to escape their abusers.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in one day in 2019, Kentucky domestic violence programs served 1,420 adult and child survivors; another 128 requests for services went unmet due to a lack of resources.

NCADV’s data notes that, in Kentucky, more than 45% of women and 35% of men experience intimate partner physical violence or rape in their lifetimes.

Additionally, in June 2023, data compiled by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center, Kentucky State Police, Cabinet for Health and Family Service, and the Administrative Office of the Courts was disbursed in the first statewide data report detailing domestic violence statistics.

In the report, it was recorded that 34 emergency protective orders (EPOs) were served by Berea Police Department (BPD), 76 from the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and 100 from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

There were also 6,468 JC-3 forms — documents utilized by law enforcement agencies for the purpose of reporting incidents of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect — filed in the Bluegrass Development District in 2022, which contains Anderson, Franklin, Woodford, Mercer, Boyle, Lincoln, Garrard, Jessamine, Fayette, Scott, Harrison, Bourbon, Nicholas, Clark, Madison, Powell, and Estill Counties.

An infusion of funds

In a press release regarding the grant, Corey Ewing, President and CEO of WellCare, acknowledged the widespread damage that domestic violence can create.

“Domestic violence not only impacts a person’s physical well-being but also their emotional and physical health. We are proud to support the mission of AppalReD Legal Aid and all they do to give hope to domestic violence survivors,” he said.

The release further clarified that WellCare granted AppalReD Legal Aid $10,000 to use over six months. Clients do not need to be WellCare members to receive support.

Leigh Ann Moore, a senior attorney who leads Legal Aid’s Family Law Section, remarked that domestic violence is a broadly defined term that does not only include harm to one’s person, but also other aspects of a person’s life.

Legal Aid considers domestic violence to encompass physical acts of violence, threats of violence, mental and emotional abuse, financial abuse, and can also include a wide swath of acts, including threatening a partner that they will lose their children if they leave or keeping them detained in their home.

“When we’re addressing that someone has been through a domestic violence situation, we look at all those types of domestic violence. The scope of domestic violence is so large, it’s very hard to define domestic violence. It doesn’t absolutely have to be that someone was physically abused to qualify as domestic violence,” said Moore.

In her 12 years with Legal Aid, she has assisted many people with the process of removing themselves from domestic violence situations. Given the intimate nature of this process, she noted that there are many barriers to leaving.

While the reasons are numbers and differ from person to person, Moore said, they can include familial pressure, commitment to one’s faith, a fear of losing one’s children, or financial dependency.

“There are so many factors that go into being reliant on another person and dependent on another person that it’s hard to leave, especially if you’re living in poverty or if you don’t have an income. How do you leave your abuser who is providing the sole income to the house?” Moore pondered.

When there are already so many outside motivations to stay, one financial barrier may pose too large of an issue to leave, which is why funding for legal services is important.

While Legal Aid’s services are always free of charge to those who qualify, the grant that the organization just received from Wellcare serves as an infusion of funds that will benefit Legal Aid’s Appalachian HOPE (Homeless Outreach Prevention Effort), which has assisted hundreds of domestic violence survivors over the past decade to transition to safe, stable housing.

“There are still barriers that stand in the way. For example, if a client can’t afford transportation to court how can they truly access justice? Sometimes court fees of a few hundred dollars are all that stand in the way of a client divorcing their abuser. With this new grant from WellCare we’ve been able to deliver the good news to several domestic violence survivors that they can now afford freedom from violence,” explained Evan Smith, Interim Executive Director of AppalReD Legal Aid.

Legal Aid Attorney Cindy Glass noted there are also instances where people could fall through the cracks for assistance that already exists.

“A few years ago Jeanette’s Law was passed. (The law) allows the payment of guardian ad litem fees to be covered if the domestic violence survivor’s perpetrator was the one who has already been found guilty of a crime, but it doesn’t cover it if they are just incarcerated and still waiting to have a trial or they haven’t pled guilty yet. So, in those situations, the [survivors] often can’t leave because they simply can’t afford to pay that guardian ad litem that they would otherwise be required to pay. So, we can apply to have that grant to cover that guardian ad litem fee,” she explained.

Glass added, “The grant can be used for a variety of things. It can be used to cover a security deposit for rent, it can be used to help with transportation, it can be used to help them if they have utility bills that are due that they don’t have the funds to pay — so there’s a variety of ways that it allows that it can be used.”

According to a release about the grant, this is the first time AppalReD Legal Aid has been able to extend Appalachian HOPE across its 37 county-wide service area with the grant funding going towards helping clients who have experienced violence with court fees, transportation to court and medical appointments, moving costs, utilities, or the cost of replacing IDs and other documents.

Officials reported that 17 clients have so far been assisted with funds from this grant.

Upcoming conference information

AppalReD Legal Aid is hosting its 20th annual Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Awareness Conference on September 15th from 8:30 a.m.- 3:15 p.m. over Zoom.

According to Moore, the conference is funded by a grant from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Participants can earn free CEUs and CLEs for their participation.

The conference is geared toward those who work in any capacity with individuals who have experienced domestic violence and those who work with older individuals in any capacity will benefit from this conference. This would include, among others:

social workers

health professionals

nursing home administrators

attorneys

case managers

court personnel

victim advocates

law enforcement officers

licensed clinical alcohol & drug counselors

Additional information and registration can be found at https://tinyurl.com/domestic-violence-conference.

Further action and services

To receive services locally, Moore says that potential clients can fill out an application for services on their website: https://www.ardfky.org or via their hotline: 1-866-277-5733.

From there, a Legal Aid representative will complete a legal needs assessment to understand how Legal Aid can assist them. Once they are approved as clients, they would be considered eligible for the grant.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, no matter when the violence took place, please contact the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Their webpage (https://ncadv.org) provides resources for victims, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be called at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

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