Leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous and terrifying experience for many women.
There can also be a range of complex legal issues including child custody, intervention orders, tenancy contracts, and financial matters that can create barriers for leaving the relationship.
In a South Australian first, a collaboration between a major hospital and the Legal Services Commission is helping women access vital legal advice to escape violence.
The federally funded initiative allows Lyell McEwin Hospital staff to call in a special unit of lawyers who can provide mobile legal assistance to women at the hospital and domestic violence centres.
Legal Services Commission access services manager Chris Boundy said the lawyers’ mobility was crucial to the project’s success.
“It is a very important initiative, a very important step, because women who are in peril are not certain where to go,” Mr Boundy said.
“They’re not even sure how to reach out and by having this unique partnership with the hospital it is the hospital staff who identify women who could benefit from having some legal advice and then we’re able to respond and be here when we’re needed.
“The important thing is we come to them when it’s convenient and by being notified through health authorities we can have the mobility to ensure they don’t miss the opportunity to get proper legal advice.”
Mr Boundy said the lawyers in the domestic violence unit were well-qualified, empathetic and passionate about helping women get access to justice.
Knowing your rights gives you power
Northern suburbs mother Emma (not her real name) knows first hand the terror of feeling trapped in an abusive relationship.
“I was going through domestic violence at home and being that I wasn’t aware of what was around to help me I was stuck in that sort of position for quite some time,” she said.
Emma said legal advice helped her understand her rights and feel supported when she was confused and scared.
“Now I know where I stand, no matter what he says or does,” she said.
“I know that my child will be OK, and there are courts and laws out there that will stand up for that and keep her protected, as well as me.
“It’s definitely something you need and it gives you that clarity at that time that you need clarity because you don’t know and you’re quite confused, it does help quite a lot.”
This was originally published by ABC.net.au.