NHLA receives 3-year federal grant to help victims of crime
June 29, 2016 - New Hampshire’s Executive Council today approved $1,091,164 in federal funding to support civil legal aid for low-income victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes, starting on July 1. The funds were made available through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Crime Victims’ Fund, established in 1984.
The VOCA fund is filled by fines and penalties paid by people and organizations convicted of federal crimes. This is the first time states have been able to use VOCA funding for civil legal aid for crime victims.
The recipient of the largest portion of New Hampshire’s new VOCA funding, New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), will receive $735,904 over the next three years to help victims of stalking and domestic and sexual violence who seek protective orders, emergency parenting orders and other emergency civil legal needs.
With these funds, NHLA plans to hire two new staff attorneys to work on the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project.
NHLA is a statewide non-profit law firm providing civil legal aid through advice, counsel and representation to low-income, elderly and other vulnerable New Hampshire residents who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer, as well as systemic public policy advocacy on their behalf.
For more than 17 years, NHLA has made legal aid for domestic violence victims one of its top priorities. In 2015, close to 5,900 petitions for relief from domestic violence and stalking were filed in New Hampshire’s courts.Of those, fewer than 9 percent of petitioners had legal help, according to the NH Circuit & Superior Court.
The vast majority of victims of domestic violence and stalking faced the daunting experience of appearing alone in court proceedings where most did not understand the laws or how to advocate for the safety and best interests of themselves and their families.
“Self-represented victims are greatly disadvantaged when seeking protection in the civil legal system. They are understandably scared and often don’t know how to request the protections and support they need, such as safe, supervised parenting orders, child support, or support for other basic needs. Too often, victims feel they have no choice but to return to the abusive partner,” said NHLA Executive Director Lynne Parker.
“Refugee and immigrant victims face even more challenges, including cultural and language barriers. Civil legal aid provides a voice for victims to make their case and request the protections and support they need to escape abuse.”
NHLA will work in partnership with the Legal Advice and Referral Center, the New Hampshire Bar Association Pro Bono Program, and various crisis centers throughout the state. The New Hampshire Department of Justice will administer the funds, which will also be available to assist victims of crime with immigration needs.
To listen to a New Hampshire domestic violence survivor talk about what legal aid from NHLA meant to her, watch Robin's story: