According to the CDC: A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country.
It is the number- one cause of injury to American women; of the two million injured annually, more than half a million of those injuries require medical attention while about 145,000 require overnight hospitalization. Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S.
In 2019 Erie County experienced 14 domestic violence related homicides.
On today’s episode of WATT, we will explore the current state of IPV/DV and the courts as well as the cultural context and finally the role feminist action/advocacy has played in shaping DV advocacy efforts and what the future holds. We will be joined by Clinical Professor Judith Olin, Director of the University at Buffalo’s Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic and three of Professor Olin’s law students.
The Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic (FVWRC) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, 2022. In 1992, the Clinic was created and founded by then co-directors, Suzanne Tomkins ’92 and Dr. Catherine Cerulli ’92. The late Professor Isabel Marcus offered substantial support and input during the formation of the Clinic. In the early years, the Clinic helped to lay the groundwork towards the establishment of an infrastructure which created and supported Domestic Violence (DV) community collaborations in Western New York.
The Clinic helped to develop protocols and policies for many counties, localities, and other public and private domestic violence organizations throughout the eight counties of Western New York and beyond. The Clinic worked with local and statewide advocacy groups to support statewide domestic violence legislative reform. The Clinic placed law students in DV-related placements in Western New York; countless students graduated and became leaders in their fields, assuming leadership positions in the field of family violence.
In 2015, the Clinic was re-structured to a model in which students enrolled in the clinic become certified to practice law under the supervision of Clinical Professor Judith Olin as student attorneys with a Student Practice Order from the 4th Department of the Appellate Division. Student Attorneys represent individual victims of violence in civil family cases. While a typical Clinic client earns too much to qualify for a free, or pro bono attorney, the Clinic supports a population that is unable to afford private counsel, thus allowing the students to represent clients who would otherwise go without legal counsel.
Students also have the opportunity to work on projects which impact the local community, including: delivering teen dating violence prevention education to high schoolers, the preparation of self-help pamphlets for survivors and the provision of community legal education for DV service providers.
Director of the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Law Clinic. Her legal career has been dedicated to advocacy on behalf of victims of family violence. In her years as a legal services attorney, she focused on the representation of victims of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases and initiated impact litigation leading to reform in the Buffalo Police Department’s policies in domestic violence cases. Olin went on to become an Erie County prosecutor specializing in domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault cases. As Director of the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center, Olin led a multidisciplinary team that coordinated child abuse investigations for Erie County. Olin chairs the Domestic Violence Committee of the Women’s Bar Association of Western New York and serves on The Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence and the local Rape Crisis Advisory Board.
A recent grad of UB Law School who is currently studying for the Bar Exam in July. While she does not have a job lined up yet, her dream job is working in a public interest organization doing family law for domestic violence survivors. During law school, she was a student attorney in the Family Violence and Women’s Rights clinic all four semesters, the president of the Domestic Violence Task Force, and the fundraising chair for the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program.
Earned her Juris Doctorate from the University at Buffalo School of Law in May of 2022, with a concentration in Family Law. While at the school, she was an Executive Publications Editor with the Buffalo Law Review, a Writing Fellow for first year students, and a Student Attorney with the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic four semesters. She was also recognized as a 2021 Tillman Scholar, interned with Neighborhood Legal Services, volunteered with LawHelpNY, and completed a Judicial Internship with Erie County Family Court through the New York Chapter of the National Association of Women Judges. She hopes to continue her work advocating for victims of domestic violence in the future.
A third-year law student at the University at Buffalo School of Law. She has practiced in the Family Violence and Women’s Rights clinic for two semesters; there, she represents clients in custody and support matters, composes and argues emergency family offense petitions, spearheads collaborative efforts with local advocacy groups, and researches pressing issues in New York family law. Outside of her legal studies, Merante is an award-winning poet and essayist. In this capacity, she writes about womanhood, gender disparities, and women’s loss of autonomy over their own anatomy. Merante’s most beloved work is a chapbook she published in the summer of 2019 titled the morse code project as all of the proceeds were donated to organizations supporting women and their fight for equality. Merante plans to use her passion and skills to continue uplifting women’s stories as a lawyer, and otherwise.