Integral to the Institute’s mission is a commitment to empowering clients and client communities so that they can articulate and advance their own legal strategies and resolutions — both in their individual cases and in the advocating for changes in the legal system that will benefit all victims. We do this by making our faculty, staff and students available to support clients in a wide range of community based advocacy groups and institutions — offering basic abuse prevention services to individual clients, expedited referrals of community group members to cooperating lawyers for legal representation in more complex matters, assistance in securing institutional and financial support and the opportunity to participate in collaborative research and demonstration grants.

Students can participate in the work of the Domestic Violence Institute (DVI) beginning in their first year by enrolling in a unique interdisciplinary collaboration with the Boston Medical Center, which places law students in the Adult and Pediatric Emergency Department to interview women patients and assist in identifying victims in need of services. Students with prior domestic violence advocacy experiences act as team leaders in this program, assisting inexperienced students in their efforts gain information and experience interviewing patients, and providing direct legal advocacy services to patients who identify as battered. Upper-level students may enroll in an intensive, six-credit abuse prevention clinic that places students at the Dorchester Municipal Court, advocating on behalf of victims seeking restraining orders.

Upper-level students also have the opportunity to apply to an array of coop placements among legal services organizations with whom the DVI has traditionally coordinated its work. And, on our own campus, the DVI has become a partner in a new sexual assault initiative Northeastern University’s Campus Center for Violence Against Women. Students may now be offered clinical, volunteer, work study or co-op opportunities to support the activities of this new center. In addition, students at all levels are urged to propose work study, independent study, or co-op projects that advance the goals of the DVI, including research into the rights of battered women and rape victims in the criminal justice system, in securing legal immigration status, for priority housing, medical care and mental health services and to ensure that they have the income to support themselves and their children.

Most recently, through a collaboration of faculty, staff and students, the DVI has begun a project to expand access to its training and resource materials to advocates throughout the Greater Boston area. Currently, advocates and staff in agencies and community groups serving battered women can register to receive “The HELP Book”, which provides a comprehensive and frequently updated list of referral resources to meet a wide range of victim service needs. DVI is planning a similar local distribution of its basic training materials, as well as sharing these materials throughout the national clinical education community.