October is Domestic Violence Month - 2021


It is common for the legal system to question whether a survivor of domestic violence is credible because a witness doesn’t behave, look, or speak, the way the court may expect. We must rethink credibility to guarantee fair and equal access to justice.


Our society, including the legal system, is rife with implicit bias that often results in survivors not being believed. Racism and implicit bias result in survivors who are people of color being less believed, less protected, and less likely to feel safe engaging with systems in the future. This becomes more pronounced when those survivors are also experiencing poverty.

Witness testimony is often the most important component of a trial. The opportunity for people with knowledge of events to recite facts, the chance for the adverse party to cross-examine, and the jurist’s ability to observe the witnesses’ demeanor during testimony is a fundamental part of the truth-seeking function of a trial. 


Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors – including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion – used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship. 

Some people are surprised when they learn that domestic violence survivors aren’t guaranteed a lawyer. Abusers facing criminal charges have a right to an attorney. Survivors seeking protective orders or full custody of children don't. Theirs are civil matters.

Legal help makes it easier for survivors to secure protective orders. While some abusers may be arrested and face criminal charges, most aren’t, and the best available remedy for survivors is often a protective order. 

Beyond securing protective orders, our hardworking family law advocates give survivors of abuse a second chance by providing the resources for them to leave their abusers and forge new, safe, and stable lives for themselves and their children.

This is no easy task—abusers often maintain control over survivors’ finances and even children. But we know that help from a legal aid lawyer can empower survivors to sever these damaging bonds and secure housing, public benefits, or much-needed spousal support, all of which require successfully navigating civil proceedings.

If you or anyone you know is experienceing domestic violence from someone else, please call one of the legal programs in Missouri for help.