Jared Gaylord said he wasn’t scared by the ghost tour he and his girlfriend took in Savannah over Spring Break. He thought the tour itself was cheesy.
The scary experience was an unexpected interruption, when he heard a car drive away and saw a woman crying on the sidewalk.
Gaylord, 25, said when he asked what was wrong, she was too hysterical to speak.
The woman’s batterer returned to the scene with scratches covering his neck. He told the police to ignore her story because she was "drunk and crazy."
"I had never seen firsthand domestic violence before," he said. "And it was so public and in front of a tour group."
It was a situation that frightened the UF law third-year in a way a supernatural presence could not.
The incident made him decide to join The Source Program at UF, a clinic in the law school that provides legal representation, social work and victim-advocacy services to survivors of intimate partner violence.
But now, the program is fighting for funding. Teresa Drake, director of The Source Program, said a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that compensates for a majority of the program’s $200,000 expenses expires this month.
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Gaylord didn’t understand the woman’s situation until he enrolled in the program.
After learning about domestic violence laws, certain details from that night in Savannah stood out — the scratches, especially.
He’s now an extern, taking part in the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic class and acting as the lawyer for the victim of domestic battery.
Drake said every client is considered indigent, meaning they can’t afford an attorney. Sometimes their batterer controls them with money because they don’t have enough of their own to support themselves and their families.
It costs about $200,000 a year to fund the program, Drake said. Almost all of that goes to the staff — a full-time attorney, a part-time licensed clinical social worker, a 30-hour-per-week program assistant and a 25-hour-per-week victim advocate. That’s not including supplies, office expenses and litigation costs.
Drake said the U.S. Department of Justice grant, which has given the program its funding so far, has been renewed twice in the six years since the program began.
"We’re looking for donors," she said. "We’re hoping to do forward research here at the clinic so we can take into consideration the effects of trauma and provide services in a way that’s most comfortable for the client."
Gaylord has represented clients in court and works with the survivors on other legal matters, such as immigration applications, injunctions and restraining orders.
"We had orientation and you’re all eager, and then you talk to some of the women on the phone and hear some of the stories and it opens your eyes to the unspoken problem of domestic violence," he said. "It’s out there, but no one talks about it."
Gaylord and the other externs become experts on the women’s experiences. They stand between the victim and the batterer in the courtroom, when most of the women have not faced their attackers in months. Some of the victims visibly shake out of fear that their injunction will not be renewed and their batterer will target them again.
Sometimes, a piece of paper is not enough to stop the batterer from targeting them at all.
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The issue is sometimes more complicated than just domestic abuse. A recent victim who was an undocumented immigrant relied on the marriage to her batterer to stay in the country. This type of case happens often, and the batterer usually tells the victim he will have her deported if she reports the beatings. She believes he is her only hope for eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. The Source Program helps to streamline the immigration process and find shelter and food for these women and their families in the meantime. But sometimes, that can last between 14 and 16 months, Drake said.
Drake said the program is unlike other law school clinics because it provides survivors with multidisciplinary services under one roof and teaches future doctors and lawyers to address the issue of intimate partner violence.
"The American Medical Association says every doctor should be screening (for intimate partner violence)," she said. "Is that happening on the ground? No, because they’re not trained how to."
Survivors are often referred to The Source Program by its partners, such as UF Health or Peaceful Paths, an emergency shelter in Gainesville, Drake said. They can also self-refer. Victims undergo a 15-minute intake process, she said. Program members interview the client to determine how at risk she is of homicide by her batterer. Then Drake will assign a Source Program student to the case.
The Source Program works with the client to determine whether legal action is necessary and if she needs an injunction or if she is undocumented and needs help applying for a visa. In the meantime, she has access to a victim-advocate case manager and a licensed clinical social worker. Some clients continue to see a social worker long after the legal case is over.
"She’s still struggling with victimization," Drake said. "She still needs services to get her feet under her and to find steady employment."
The program also works to find the victim housing, food, resume services and therapy based on her, and sometimes her children’s, needs. Ninety-seven percent of The Source Program’s clients are women, Drake said. But, intimate partner violence also affects men and the LGBTQ+ community.
There is no typical case, Drake said. But, there is also no typical treatment.
"Normally, you would have to go to three different places for the same services we provide," she said. "We’re able to have different perspectives so we can provide a client with full service where we’re all understanding and we’re all on the same page."
• • •
Occasionally, a client will receive a happy ending.
One victim who turned to The Source Program for help with the immigration process eventually adjusted her four-year visa to become a permanent resident of the U.S.
It had been two years since a legal extern from The Source Program had worked with her on her case. During that time, she had a son.
She named him after the student who had helped her in her time of need: Alexander Martin.
Contact Brooke Baitinger at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @BaitingerBrooke
Making her/him afraid by using looks, actions or gestures. Includes smashing things, destroying her/his property, abusing pets or displaying weapons.
USING COERCION AND THREATS:
Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her/him. Includes threatening to commit suicide, to leave or making her/him do illegal things.
USING ECONOMIC ABUSE:
Preventing her/him from getting or keeping a job. Includes making her/him ask for money, giving her/him an allowance or taking her/his money.
USING MALE PRIVILEGE:
Includes treating her/him like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the "master" or being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.
Includes making her/him feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages or threatening to take the children or visitation rights away.
MINIMIZING, DENYING AND BLAMING:
Making light of the abuse and not taking her/his concerns seriously. Includes saying the abuse didn’t happen or shifting responsibility for abusive behavior.
Controlling what she/he does and who she/he talks to. Includes limiting her/his outside involvement and using jealousy to justify actions.
USING EMOTIONAL ABUSE:
Includes putting her/him down, making her/him think she’s/he’s crazy, playing mind games, humiliating her/him or making her/him feel guilty.
Source: National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence