Assemblyman Patrick Burke (D-Buffalo) announced that he helped secure $50,000 in funding for the University at Buffalo School of Law – Family Violence & Women’s Rights (FVWR) Clinic and $100,000 for the Family Justice Center of Erie County in the 2021-22 state budget.
“Incidents of domestic violence have spiked during the pandemic, and it’s imperative that we address this disturbing trend,” Burke said. “I fought to successfully restore critical state funding for these essential programs so they can continue providing necessary aid to Western New Yorkers. I’ll continue working alongside my colleagues in the Assembly to do whatever we can to protect survivors of domestic violence and bring their abusers to justice.”
The FVWRC serves the unmet legal needs of local survivors of domestic violence, providing legal support to Western New York families who cannot afford private counsel. Law students are supervised and trained to represent individuals in civil cases, helping victims to live in safety and families to obtain justice. Students also have the opportunity to work on community and educational programs addressing issues of domestic violence. A recent study found that domestic violence incidents rose more than 8% across the nation in 2020 following lockdown orders put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, and this estimate is likely an undercount.
“We are so grateful for the funding secured for the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic,” said FVWR Clinic Director Judith Olin. “This funding allows law student attorneys to represent vulnerable survivors of domestic violence under the close supervision of licensed attorneys. Clients represented are mainly single mothers who earn too much to qualify for a free lawyer but are unable to afford private counsel. Providing representation to clients who would otherwise go unrepresented and helping to train future family law attorneys promotes access to justice for survivors of domestic violence. With the skills and experience gained in Clinic, law students enter the workforce ready to hit the ground running.”
The Family Justice Center provides free services for domestic violence victims and their children through an extensive collaboration with several partner agencies that brings them to a secure, comfortable location where victims get the services they need to safely escape abuse. The center also works with the FVWRC to combat domestic violence and provide representation and advocacy for this serious matter.
“The volume of Family Justice Center hotline calls has skyrocketed to a 74% increase, with the majority of our cases being high lethality risk – something we’ve never experienced before at our agency,” said Family Justice Center CEO Mary Travers Murphy. “This critical funding will enable us to continue all the services necessary to save lives.”
Burke has long been an outspoken advocate for legislation that protects survivors of domestic violence. He’s helped pass multiple pieces of legislation that bolster survivors’ rights and provide aid to programs on the frontlines of public service, including a sweeping legislative package in 2019 that would make it easier for victims to escape their abusers. The package also included measures to hold more abusers accountable for their actions, such as allowing victims to receive damages for economic and non-economic losses from all defendants found liable in civil court, increasing the statute of limitations for a civil action to recover damages for injuries arising from domestic violence from one to two years, and ensuring victims of domestic violence understand their legal rights and access to services during criminal and family court proceedings (Ch. 180, 245 and 663 of 2019).
To learn more about the programs, visit law.buffalo.edu/beyond/clinics/domestic-violence.html or fjcsafe.org.