October is a time to raise awareness about the epidemic of domestic violence, which makes up 50 percent of all reported crimes committed against people in Washington.
Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators have been working on strategies to protect domestic violence and sexual assault survivors by addressing the underlying causes of these crimes and holding perpetrators accountable.
The Inslee administration recently narrowed the gap in services available to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes by investing a significant portion of federal Victim of Crime Act money in civil legal programs. Legal aid services help people who cannot afford an attorney navigate the justice system. In cases of relationship and sexual violence, that often means help with securing a protection order against the perpetrator.
In Washington, the Department of Commerce’s Office of Crime Victims Advocacy administers VOCA funds, which have supported a range of services to address crime victims’ immediate health, safety and economic problems that arise from the crime. Historically, however, few of these funds provided access to civil legal aid.
This changed when Commerce adopted its VOCA 2015–19 State Plan.
In that plan, the department for the first time expressly included civil legal aid as a priority service for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. Inslee’s policy staff, informed in large part by findings that had just been published in the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study, encouraged Commerce to prioritize civil legal aid.
The Civil Legal Needs Study demonstrated that domestic violence victims experience twice the number of civil legal problems as the public as a whole, and that these problems affect every aspect of their lives, from their physical safety to housing, health care, family relationships and employment.
Read the rest of the story on the governor's Medium page.