Battered Women’s Justice Project Essay

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The Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) is a nonprofit organization focused on improving access to justice for survivors of domestic violence. The overarching goal of the project is to promote systemic change within community organizations and governmental agencies engaged in the civil and criminal justice response to domestic violence in order to hold these institutions accountable for the goals of safety and security for battered women and their families. BWJP has three offices: the Civil Justice Office, the Criminal Justice Office, and the Defense Office.

The three offices of BWJP work both independently and on joint projects. The Civil Justice Office focuses on enhancing battered women’s access to legal court options and to legal representation in civil court. The Civil Justice Office staff provides technical assistance to attorneys, advocates, court personnel, policymakers, and battered women, offering state-of-the-art advocacy and court system approaches, model protocols and practices, and policy information. Typical issues for this office include protection orders, separation violence, divorce, custody, the confidentiality of shelter records and of victim advocate communications, safety planning, welfare, immigration, and the Violence Against Women Act. The Civil Justice Office emphasizes autonomy and women-centered advocacy, as well as the importance of economic jus tice in securing agency, safety, and restoration for battered women and their children.

The Criminal Justice Office offers training, technical assistance, and consultation on the most promising practices of the criminal justice system in addressing domestic violence. The Criminal Justice staff provides information and analyses on effective policing, prosecuting, sentencing, and monitoring of domestic violence offenders. The Criminal Justice Office has worked extensively on issues pertaining to domestic violence and the military. This office also offers safety audits and training and consultation in cases involving battered women whose abusers are law enforcement officers.

The Defense Office, managed by the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, addresses issues that arise when battered women are charged with crimes. The National Clearinghouse is the only national organization that provides technical assistance, resources, and support to battered women who kill their abusers while defending themselves or their children from life-threatening violence or who are coerced by their abusers into committing a crime. The National Clearinghouse strives to prevent battered women defendants from being revictimized by the criminal justice system and has developed comprehensive resources to support attorneys, expert witnesses, advocates, and others working with battered women charged with crimes.

The three offices often coordinate both formally and informally. A prominent joint effort of the three offices has been the Coalition Advocates and Attorneys Network Meeting, a biannual conference for legal advocates and attorneys from state domestic violence coalitions. Additionally, the partnership of the three offices enables staff to provide comprehensive assistance in the many instances in which battered women and their advocates and attorneys face multiple civil and criminal issues. BWJP is a member of the Domestic Violence Resource Network.

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