Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, Inc. provides victims of domestic violence with quality civil legal assistance free of charge. LSVI has continued to provide victims of domestic violence with representation in court to obtain restraining orders against their abusers; represent and advise them on matters including, but not limited to, child custody, and child support. Many civil legal matters derive from a person being a victim of domestic violence and LSVI can provide legal assistance. Our office normally addresses victim’s expectations with traditional attorney-client services, but also seek to provide all victims with a remedy, even if this is done through “pro se” assistance – helping a victim be his/her own lawyer, when applicable. We also work with supporting agencies in getting the necessary counseling, housing, and other services to help victims further overcome their situation.
The nature of the problem: Victims of domestic violence seen by Legal Services are often in either an intimate relationship with the abuser or they are family members. Random acts of violence do exist but other than eliminating the opportunity for victimization and treating the needs of the victim afterward, it is difficult to be proactive for random acts of violence. This office is uniquely well-placed to address the following issues:
- Civil Legal needs of victims of domestic violence.
- Immigration needs of victims of domestic violence.
- Victim compensation for victims of domestic violence.
- Fraud and financial exploitation of the elderly.
- Interpersonal violence at all ages.
Victims of domestic violence receive priority with LSVI. Battered victims critically need civil legal services and LSVI attorneys are recognized as experts in these cases. A restraining order is one of the few widely available interventions that have demonstrated its effectiveness in combating domestic violence. Furthermore, where divorce is the outcome of a domestic violence incident, securing financial support and equitable distribution of marital assets in a divorce is equally important as it enables the victim to ensure financial independence and, at the forefront, their safety. In addition, where a child has been the victim of domestic violence and the parent has filed for a restraining order on their behalf, it is important to require that the necessary services are implemented to prevent the incident from occurring again and to help the child deal with such a traumatic experience.
Victims of domestic violence include those with no or limited English speaking ability. These individuals may find themselves in the middle of interpersonal violence with limited family and friends and resources to turn to. In addition, these individuals may be faced with the lack of legal immigration status. As such, these victims may not be aware of the legal protections when they report an act of domestic violence. LSVI provides representation to victims of crime before the United States and Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS). LSVI assists clients with filing U- Immigrant Visa petitions before USCIS and encourages individuals to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in prosecuting their abusers. These immigration petitions allow the client to have the opportunity to obtain legal status in the United States and assist with the reported abuse/crime. LSVI also assists victims in filing Victim Compensation claims. The Victim Compensation program encourages victim participation in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals and reimbursing innocent victims for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of violent crime. LSVI ensures that victims are aware and benefit from the program.
Interpersonal violence founded in threats may seem insignificant to a person who is not the victim. It may include intimidation, restricting outside communication, withholding money or interfering with employment. It can easily extend to physical harm, sexual assault, rape and stalking, especially when a pattern of “minor violence” is allowed to continue. We may look at emotional, psychological and financial abuse as minor violence or “white collar crime” but this behavior is not. It is in the home and often leads to physical violence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are in need of a civil remedy, Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, Inc. is here to assist you as best as we can. Call us today!