ATLANTA — The Georgia Legal Services program renewed a grant from the Department of Justice for the 12th year in a row to support advocacy for domestic violence survivors. Under this three-year, $748,209 grant, GLS will continue providing free legal services to low-income, rural Georgians and support its Teen Dating Violence Prevention project. The nonprofit also facilitates law enforcement training and task force collaboration in smaller counties surrounding Macon and Gainesville.
Located in 10 regional offices throughout the state, Public Information Specialist Maura Fitzpatrick said GLS represented nearly 6,760 low- and moderate-income Georgians — 2,717 of whom survived family violence — in civil cases last year and provided them access to justice and opportunities out of poverty.
“Studies show that when victims have protective orders, the violence stops about 50 percent of the time and is otherwise substantially reduced,” Fitzpatrick said.
Tomeika Daniel, managing attorney in the Teen Dating Violence program’s Macon field office, created the project. Daniel goes into middle schools, high schools and universities to educate students, teachers and parents on teen dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault stalking and about ways to seek legal protection from these situations.
“Our Teen Dating Violence project is a crucial step toward reducing instances of domestic violence in Georgia,” Daniel said. “After every presentation, five to 10 students will approach me privately to relay that they or someone they know are experiencing domestic violence. It’s horrifying, but that is why doing these presentations is so important.”
Last year, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence ranked the state eighth in the country for its rate of men killing women. Forty-nine percent of the victims murdered began their dating relationship with their killer between the ages of 13 and 24 years old. GLS says its Teen Dating Violence Prevention project can reduce these statistics and save the lives of Georgians suffering from abuse.
“We all feel sometimes like we are putting (bandages) on a giant problem,” Fitzpatrick said. “Teen dating violence education is the one place where we can do preventive work. We can help teens recognize what to be on the lookout for, resources to escape violence, and legal services if they are victims of a violent teen relationship.”
According to its mission statement, the nonprofit corporation aims to provide civil legal services for people with low income and create equal access to justice and opportunities out of poverty.
To contact the Domestic Violence project or for more information, interested parties can call 1 (800) 498-9469 or apply online at GLSP.org.