University Law Clinic gets grant, helping victims of domestic violence

Written by Yoevelyn Rodriguez/Staff Writer


The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.”

To help potential and actual victims of domestic violence, the Law Clinic at the Modesto Maidique Campus launched a new program in honor of law student Dannette Willory, who was murdered four years ago, called the Dannette Willory Access to Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence.

“Part of my responsibilities, when we heard she had been murdered, was to put together the memorial service for her,” said Michelle Denise Mason, the Law Clinic’s senior associate dean. “She was beloved by faculty and her colleagues.”

Willory was about to graduate from the University’s Law School when, in April 2011, she was shot by her longtime boyfriend, Andrew Colby, in the parking lot adjacent to her apartment building.

Colby then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Mason said that the program in honor of Willory aims to offer legal representation and education to adults facing domestic violence.

“In the summer, we received an award to basically provide direct representation to victims of domestic violence and to put together a series of educational programs in the community,” said Mason.

According to Miami Foundation, an entity that connects philanthropists with community needs, the FIU Law Clinic, in collaboration with the Liberty City Advocates, received $41,951 from the state attorney’s Denise Moon Memorial Fund Grant.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that “the victim [of domestic violence] is often in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help.”

One out of five homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order and one of three are murdered within the first month, states NCADV.

In Florida, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that, during 2014, “106,882 crimes of domestic violence were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies.”

Zoraya Ledesma, administrative assistant to Mason, said that the Dannette Willory Access to Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence Program has helped 30 adults to date, and that clients come referred from different organizations.

“We have state attorneys, shelters, [the] Community Victims Advocacy Center,” said Ledesma. “We’ve also been getting a lot [of clients] from just word-of-mouth.”

Mason said that, currently, the Law Clinic has a team of two lawyers providing direct legal representation to victims under the Willory program.

In addition, Liberty City Advocates, an organization founded by lawyer Carlos F. Gonzalez to provide high-quality, free, holistic, legal representation and advocacy to communities in need, offers the educational component because the LCA already has a relationship with the community, said Mason.

“[Gonzalez] and another lawyer that we hired to the project, Nadia Streets, are focusing on the educational piece of it,” said Mason. “The program plans to expand into helping victims find proper shelter in the form of grants for the victims. That way, they can rent privately because sometimes it is difficult for them to find a place to relocate when they escape their abusers.”

To volunteer or donate, call (305) 348-4242.

“I want to make sure that the students know the type of services that we provide,” said Ledesma. “When we are talking about domestic violence, we are also talking about stalking. Do they need injunctions? Are they being harassed? It’s more than just hitting.”

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons


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