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Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, a sponsor of the POWER Act. (photo via Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

The POWER Act will provide resources for domestic abuse survivors

The Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent Act, or the POWER Act, promotes pro bono legal services as a way to support and empower victims of domestic abuse. 

The bill was introduced in March 2017 and signed into law on Sept. 4. The bill is a companion version in the Senate written by Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Massachusetts. 

According to the bill, proactive efforts should be made available in all forums to provide pro bono legal services and eliminate the violence that destroys lives and shatters families. It wants judges in district courts to encourage lawyers to provide pro bono resources in an effort to help victims of domestic abuse or behavior to have a way to escape. The bill would also offer assistance beyond legal representation, such as shelter, transportation and childcare.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence, which conducted a census on almost 1,700 assistance programs, estimated in Sept. 2014 there were “up to 10,000 requests for services by abused women, including legal representation, weren’t met because of lack of resources,” according to the bill.

The bill makes it mandatory for the chief judge of each judicial district to hold at least one event per year for four years promoting pro bono services for domestic abuse, stalking, sexual abuse and dating violence survivors.

It must also hold an event once every three years to promote these services to Indian or Alaskan natives. During each two-year period, each judicial district that contains an Indian tribe or tribal organization must lead no fewer than one public event promoting pro bono legal services. 

These events are meant to empower survivors of domestic violence, engage citizens and help victims end the cycle of violence. 

Studies have shown women who are legally represented in court are more likely to get protective orders. 

It can even reduce the rate of violence more significantly compared to other options such as shelters or counseling services. 

“Roughly 25 percent of American women will be victims of domestic assault in their lifetime. On average, every day in our country, three women are killed by a current or former partner. Combating this scourge has been one of my priorities in the Senate and the need for urgent action is now,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, a sponsor of the Power Act, said in a statement earlier this year. 

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts will be using existing funds to carry out the requirements of this act. 


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