EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS: Role of the Nurse-Midwife

Authors

  • Leslye E. Orloff JD

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    • Leslye E. Orloff founded Ayuda's unique domestic violence program dedicated to serving the interrelated legal and social service needs of battered Latina and immigrant women and children. Ayuda's domestic violence program assists battered women in obtaining civil protection orders, divorce, child support, custody, immigration, housing, social services, day care, and any other services they might need to be able to flee batterers. Ms. Orloff has represented battered women and children in over 800 civil court domestic violence cases since 1983. She serves as a clinical supervisor to law students who come to Ayuda from programs across the country, and the majority of her most recent work focuses on offering domestic violence training to judges, police, probation officers, social workers, and health care professionals. She has written local and national training curricula and manuals for police, judges, and attorneys on domestic violence. In 1994, Ms. Orloff published a 400-page law review article analyzing civil protection order statutes, case law and practice in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

      Ms. Orloff serves as legal advisor to congresspersons, senators, state legislators, local governments, professional associations, and battered women's shelters on a broad variety of issues related to domestic violence and immigrant women. Ms. Orloff was a cofounder of the National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women and is the Washington, D.C., spokesperson for that organization. In that capacity, she was the primary drafter of the Protection for Battered Immigrant Women Provisions of the Violence Against Women Act. Ms. Orloff's current work included drafting amendments to proposed welfare reform and immigration reform legislation that will exclude battered women and battered immigrant women from many of those bills' harmful provisions.

      Ms. Orloff received her B.A. from Brandeis University in 1978 and her J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1982. She is a bar member in California and the District of Columbia. She came to the District of Columbia to serve as a law clerk to Judge Gladys Kessler. She serves as a domestic violence, family law, immigrant women's, and Latino community expert for a variety of organizations and task forces, including the liaison to the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence, the D.C. Coordinating Council on Domestic Violence, the D.C. Courts Gender Bias Task Force, the D.C. Intrafamily Rules Committee, the National Women's Health Network, and formerly served on the D.C. Commission of Latino Community Development.

      In 1994, Ms. Orloff was awarded a fellowship from the Kellogg National Fellowship Program. With this fellowship, Ms. Orloff is undertaking a project studying women's economic development. Her project focuses on women and microenterprise, microlending, and entrepreneurship. She is studying photography and is interviewing women who are participating in microenterprise to learn how their participation in these programs has affected their lives and how they juggle multiple life responsibilities, including work, children, home, and community. Her Kellogg Fellowship lasts through 1997.


Leslye E. Orloff, JD, Ayuda, 1736 Columbia Road, N.W., Washington, DC 20009.

ABSTRACT

A nurse-midwife may be one of the first professionals domestic-abuse victims talk to about the abuse. Like other health professionals who see abuse victims for health issues often unrelated to abuse, nurse-midwives have a special opportunity to identify, intervene, and support victims of domestic violence. Professionals working in health care will see abuse victims when they are living with their abusers and do not know that abuse is abnormal, when they attempt to leave their abusers, when they return to their abusers, and when they ultimately separate. Justice system professionals only see abuse victims when they have decided to try to leave. A thorough knowledge about relief available in the legal system for abuse victims will allow nurse-midwives to help battered women effectively. This article discusses the role nurse-midwives should play in assisting abuse victims who will be seeking help from the civil and criminal justice systems. Topics discussed include the importance of documenting injuries for use in future court cases, civil protection orders, criminal court prosecutions of the abuser, legal malpractice issues if health providers do not identify battered women, informing and referring domestic-violence victims, and the special needs of immigrant women. The article also discusses typical problems victims encounter in the legal system and ways victims can overcome these barriers.

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