Brenda's story - supporting Brenda to navigate a confusing and complex legal process
Advocacy for sufferers of family violence.
Brenda, a mother in her 50s and her son Jack – a teenager with a severe developmental disability – both experienced family violence perpetrated by Brenda’s former partner, Ben.
Ben called Brenda belittling names in front of her son. He’d assaulted her by kicking and also tried to choke her. Ben also physically hurt Jack by punching him in the face. When Brenda tried to call the police, Ben would always confiscate her phone.
One evening Ben returned home in a rage. He began throwing things around the house whilst verbally abusing Brenda. On this occasion, the police attended and excluded Ben from the property.
Brenda had applied for an intervention order but didn’t have a lawyer when we met her at IMCL’s Melbourne Magistrates’ Court Duty Lawyer Service on the day of her hearing.
In its second year, we scaled up this service to three days per week to keep up with ever increasing demand to help parties to intervention orders like Brenda or Jack.
This means that people who are otherwise unrepresented have an opportunity to speak directly to a lawyer about their case to understand the process, negotiate appropriate orders and be heard in court.
Brenda was extremely concerned about facing the hearing with no lawyer. She was shaken by her experience and frightened of the other party and the unfamiliarity of the court environment, like many clients we see there.
As part of our service, on the day of her hearing we created a buffer and took some of the pressure off by gently guiding Brenda through her day in court and speaking on her behalf, helping her to secure an order for two years.
For Brenda, the intervention order process was only the start of the legal problems connected with her previous relationship. Whilst the order excluded her former partner from the home, the title was in his name. Even though Brenda had contributed to the mortgage and upkeep of the house, she anticipated that Ben would take action to get her and her son out of the property.
We arranged a follow-up phone appointment with her as part of our Early Intervention Legal Service. In it’s second year, this service provides supplementary support to clients seen as part of the duty lawyer service for secondary legal problems connected with family violence. We provided Brenda with critical advice and swiftly connected her with one of our partner pro bono lawyer firms to assist with the property settlement.
Without the pro bono referral, Brenda would have been unable to obtain any legal help as she could not pay for a lawyer or obtain representation through Victoria Legal Aid. This meant she could have walked away from the situation without negotiating a fair and equitable property settlement. IMCL made sure her rights were preserved.