Law students create stark reminders for National Domestic Violence Month

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute experience intimate partner physical violence in the United States. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. In honor National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the law school's Women's Law Association is bringing attention to the frequency and severity of domestic violence by sharing the stories of women who have fallen victim to intimate partner physical abuse.

For the month of October, dozens of wooden cut-outs shaped in the silhouette of a woman's body are placed throughout the law school. Mounted plaques feature stories just as jarring as the bright-red color of the forms, of women who were killed by their partners or ex-partners after experiencing domestic violence or after leaving or attempting to leave the relationship.

One cut-out features an anonymous 20 year-old-woman who was tragically run over by her ex-boyfriend and pronounced dead on the scene when authorities arrived. Another features the story of Anne L., a 25-year-old woman from Monroeville, PA who was fatally shot by her estranged boyfriend.

Students who are involved in the law school's Family Law Clinic represent several clients like Anne L. whose cases involve domestic abuse. The students work to provide legal counsel to clients in attempt to persuade them to take necessary action against their partners for their safety.

"Not only do students have to be prepared to identify if potential abuse is occurring in the household, or in the past between the parties, but the students also have to be prepared to address these issues with clients," Director of Clinical and International Programs and Assistant Professor of Law Kate Norton said. "Students have to be able to explain available protections for victims of domestic violence as well as assuring that clients understand how to handle any abuse issues that arise and the seriousness of the situation."

Duquesne School of Law students work under the supervision of a family law attorney and receive live-client experiences under Pennsylvania's student practice rules in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.

"My first experience with handling domestic violence arose when a client was referred to the clinic. We made sure to contact the client the same day as domestic violence situations can escalate at any moment. Upon speaking with the client, I let her know ways to reach out and get help. One way being obtaining a Protection From Abuse order (PFA)," said Kelsey Gross, 3L, "If she decided not to pursue this route, I reminded her not to hesitate to contact the police if her situation did become worse because her safety was of utmost importance."

The cut-outs will remain standing throughout the law school until the end of the month.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7223). More information about Clinical Legal Education can be found here.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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