Legal Advocacy in the Community
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Summer intern Meg discusses her time working with Sojourner's legal advocates.
This summer during my internship at Sojourner, I was fortunate enough to spend half of my time in Sojourner’s Community Legal Advocacy Program. With the help of Sojourner’s excellent legal advocates, I was able to attend court, write protection orders, and assist victims of domestic violence with the legal process. On the very first day of my internship, I felt like a deer in the headlights. I attended court at Ridgedale and had no idea what was going on amongst all of the lawyers, deputies, and defendants. I felt like I was learning a new language with all of this new legal terminology going in one ear and out the other. Now, on the last day of my internship with Sojourner, I write this after confidently spending the day in Ridgedale’s courtroom, tracking cases and talking to victims, attorneys, and a judge.
The role of a victim advocate is just like it sounds--to speak up and communicate for those impacted by domestic violence. This typically entails contacting them before their abuser’s court date and updating them on what they can expect, addressing any questions or concerns of theirs, and asking if they have any input they’d like us to convey to the prosecuting attorney on the court date. When the court date comes around, victims can choose whether or not to attend court. If they choose to come, victim advocates are available to answer questions, and offer support and resources. After the abuser, or defendant, is seen by the court, we track any decisions made and the conditions of that decision and contact the victim once again to convey this. Our goal is to translate the fancy legal terminology into language that is understandable and accessible to everyone.
Going to court has been quite the interesting experience. I have had to opportunity to meet so many friendly and helpful people--and others who weren’t so friendly. Tracking my personal progress as an intern has been very rewarding, and I would not have been able to do it without the support of the advocates in Sojourner’s community program. Additionally, I have become much more proficient in the legal process, going from not knowing what a DANCO or Domestic Abuse No Contact Order was, to requesting them from the prosecuting attorney. I am definitely not an expert in the courts yet, but it has been a privilege to learn from and serve Sojourner’s clients.