Project provides legal advice to domestic abuse victims

- When victims of abuse sit down with Shena Kitt, she sees their physical and emotional pain. 

"They're traumatized. They hail from many different backgrounds and can have many different reactions," she said.

Kitt is the lead domestic violence advocate for Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, also known as SPARCC, in Sarasota.

"We listen to their stories, we try to put it in chronological order," Kitt continued.

Often times, she suggests victims file for an injunction for protection, but she said victims can sometimes be too scared or may not have money for a lawyer.

"They are thinking about their life, their livelihood, their children, all these different things. And it's a good chance they can just get in their car and go home," she said.

A new program could help. The Injunction for Protection Project is sponsored by the state and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  They house two lawyers out of SPARCC that offer immediate help.

"In order to get an injunction for protection, you have some fairly specific legal requirements in order for the judge to find. And most people who are lay people are not familiar with the legal requirements," said attorney PJ Downyok.

The program just started two weeks ago and Downyok says it is working. They are already representing at least 10 people.

"This is a critical time for most survivors who are at a loss. Most have never had or had very minimal interaction with the legal system. So they are desperate for answers and we are here to help them," continued Downyok.

Women or men granted an injunction can ask for child support or other benefits.  The IFP Project tis completely free and attorneys walk clients through every step of the way.

"All they have to worry about is making sure they are safe and their needs are met," Downyok added.

For more information, visit: www.sparcc.net or call the 24 hour crisis hotline at (941) 365-1976.

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