URI’s shelter residents are educated about their legal rights and have immediate access to the legal support and services they need to achieve and maintain their independence.
For victims of domestic violence, safety is always top of mind: Where can I take refuge beyond the reach of my abuser? How can I keep my children safe? Only after they are out of danger, can a survivor begin to think about cutting all the other ties that bind them to their abusive partner.
Recognizing the myriad legal issues our clients face at that stage, URI established the Domestic Violence Legal Education and Advocacy Program (LEAP) in 2006. For the past ten years, we have increasingly integrated quality legal support into the comprehensive set of services we offer survivors.
LEAP provides individualized on-site comprehensive legal advice and support on issues such as child custody and visitation, child support, divorce, orders of protection and debt issues. Services range from writing and filing affidavits, locating individuals willing to submit statements on behalf of survivors, and filing immigration petitions. LEAP also provides legal and rights-based training for residents and staff.
Immigration issues are among the most common our LEAP team assists with as undocumented survivors have particularly complicated circumstances. Sometimes, only the parent entering shelter is undocumented. Sometimes the entire family is undocumented. As most undocumented survivors are scared to have any contact with the legal system LEAP bridges that gap to keep their families together and safe.
LEAP in Action: A Case Study
Ms. R. entered into shelter with her two children after suffering from years of psychological and physical abuse. Ms. R. and her two children were undocumented and her husband had used her immigration status to control her. As a result, she was fearful for her future, deeply hurt and traumatized. When Ms. R. met with LEAP, she learned that she and her children were eligible to apply for lawful residency because she was a survivor of domestic violence. LEAP supported Ms. R. through the legal process in challenging her denial of public assistance and helped her obtain an attorney to fight for her benefits. This process took several months. Thanks to LEAP, Ms. R. went from a situation in which she and her children were undocumented with no money and no permanent housing to having a work permit, a steady source of income through public assistance and a housing voucher.
Learn more about LEAP