Anne (not her real name) is a respected professional in our community. She is also a victim of domestic violence who fled her abuser, only to become locked in a succession of legal battles that have put her $100,000 in debt. No longer able to afford a lawyer, today she represents herself in court, cross-examining her abuser in order to protect her children, her job, her home and her name. But thanks to Jared’s Place, she’s not alone.
Jared’s Place helps women experiencing violence and abuse navigate the legal system, whether it’s an immigration, family, child protection, civil, housing or criminal matter. The free program is named after Jared Osidacz, an eight-year-old boy who was killed by his father while on an unsupervised court-ordered access visit.
“Jared’s mom went through the system and no one was helping her,” says Nancy Smith, executive director of Interval House of Hamilton. “That’s why she let us name the program after Jared.”
The program relies on grants and community donations. Funding from HCF helps support the legal advocate, who is a specialist in violence against women and is well versed in the legal system. The advocate can clarify a woman’s rights, provide information, attend court, review court orders, help with paperwork and make lawyer referrals. Safety planning is the first priority. Almost as important is building a woman’s confidence to engage with people and institutions that have power, since perpetrators often try to manipulate the system to continue the abuse.
The legal advocate is also a witness. Before Anne knew about Jared’s Place, her abuser tried to run her down outside the courthouse. Now, Anne is never alone at court and she always has someone to call.
“Jared’s Place offers a woman hope,” Nancy says. “In a traumatic situation one’s clarity isn’t there, but the legal advocate is—every step of the way, if that’s what a woman wants.”
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report