Since 1992, the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Emergency Project has provided free legal services to low-income victims of domestic violence. Scott O’Connell is an attorney from Manchester who drives to a crisis center in Berlin once a month to volunteer his services, working there with local advocates. Donna Cummings is the director of the crisis center where O’Connell volunteers.
Scott: We’ve got really profound problems; people who are facing immediate domestic violence that need assistance with a petition and the much more routine, people who are having difficulty getting benefits from the Veterans administration and other types of thorny things.
Donna: But what we see a lot of is defendants going in with attorneys and the victim going in with no attorney at all. It really makes a difference if somebody’s there to help that person line up the ducks for the court.
Scott: The work that’s being done is critical and underserved, especially in the North Country. I grew up in a household of domestic violence. So when I am able to help other people it’s as if I am giving back to a system that took care of me.
Donna: We had one client who Scott helped, who came into our shelter and was almost shell-shocked and after being in the shelter for awhile and starting to work with Scott – she was able to get her restraining order expanded. She was able to get the divorce under way. Now, she’s in her own apartment. She’s a happy person. It’s just amazing to see her blossom and part of that was definitely due to the fact that Scott came up and helped her with her legal matters.