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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Longer-Term Influence of Civil Legal Services on Battered Women



Authors: Carolyn Copps Hartley, Ph.D., Lynette M. Renner, Ph.D.

Abstract:
This is a two-year, panel study of how the receipt of legal services provided by Iowa Legal Aid influences safety, psychological well-being and economic self-sufficiency outcomes for women who experienced intimate partner violence residing in metro and non-metro communities.

Four research questions guided this study:
1.         What is the direct relationship between civil legal services and revictimization, psychological well-being, and economic self-sufficiency for women who experience IPV?
2.         Does the quality of the attorney-client relationship mediate the relationship between civil legal services and women’s sense of empowerment?
3.         Does women’s sense of empowerment mediate the relation between civil legal services on the study outcomes?
4.         Are there differences in the relationship between the type of civil legal services received and outcomes for women residing in metro and non-metro communities?
Civil legal services appear to have a positive association with women’s safety, psychological well-being, and economic self-sufficiency over time. They can most directly address economic self-sufficiency in two ways: by increasing income and decreasing economic liability.

Through this study, researchers found that women who received civil legal services reported significant decreases in revictimization, along with substantial improvements in psychological well-being and economic self-sufficiency over time.

Although civil legal services appear to provide significant assistance in addressing the radiating impact of IPV, one potential barrier pertains to a woman’s access to assistance of counsel in civil cases.

Researchers advise policymakers and federal and state legislators to consider the following strategies for improving access to civil legal services:
           Advocating for a right to council in the civil legal process
           The role of Access to Justice Commissions
           A call for increased funding for state legal aid agencies
           Improving assistance with pro se representation
           Expanding limited scope representation or unbundled legal services

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