For Immediate Release: September 20, 2011
BOSTON, MA--The Multicultural Immigrant Coalition Against Violence (MICAV) will bring together, advocates, domestic violence survivors, researchers, public agency representatives, and attorneys to share perspectives and to initiate a community of practice during a special conference, Minority & Immigrant Survivors in Probate & Family Court: Building a Community of Practice, on Tuesday, September 27th, 9:00-3:00 p.m., at the Suffolk University Law School - Rappaport Center.
“This is an interactive conference for advocates and similarly situated professionals who help minority and immigrant domestic violence survivors in family court,” says Monica Driggers, research scientist, Wellesley Centers for Women. “It's a much-needed opportunity to gather, identify, and discuss the unique challenges encountered while serving this population. Participants will be encouraged to share their knowledge and take the first steps towards establishing best practices and building a community of practice."
Probate and Family Court cases can be complex, drawn-out, and difficult for survivors. Language barriers, unfamiliarity with court processes, cultural misperceptions, and questions about immigration status routinely frustrate the efforts of battered immigrant and minority survivors of domestic violence to use family court to achieve personal and financial security for themselves and their children. Conference attendees will be encouraged to participate and so that their collective wisdom may inform discussions of effective, culturally tailored techniques as MICAV begins creating a community of practice around these issues.
“The topic of this conference is highly relevant for advocates and others who interact with immigrants and minorities in the family court setting. Linguistic and cultural barriers—including, in some cases, cultural norms against drawing attention to domestic violence—can pose added complications for these populations in navigating the court system,” reports Shannon Erwin, state policy director, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition.
The conference’s afternoon dialogue between court interpreters and advocates will clarify their roles to each other, identify barriers for immigrant and minority survivors in the Probate and Family Courts, and discuss ideas for collaboration to improve services for survivors. A panel of court interpreters and advocates will describe their experiences with immigrant and minority survivors, with particular attention to issues in the Probate and Family Courts. Panelists will then respond to questions aimed at building collaborative efforts between interpreters and advocates. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to respond to panelists’ comments and participate in a large group discussion.
“When immigrant victims of domestic violence know what legal rights they have in this country, they are more likely to escape abuse and to keep their children shielded from violence in the home,” says Mithra Merryman, senior attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services. “The laws and procedures in the Probate and Family Court are complex and many immigrant victims don't realize that the Commonwealth's powerful laws against domestic violence are there to protect them in the same way they protect any U.S. born victim. Domestic violence advocates who provide support and education to immigrant victims of domestic violence are a key part of a coordinated community response to end domestic violence in all communities.”
Members of MICAV will facilitate building the community of practice following the interactive, day-long program.
“Attendees will leave the conference with resources, ideas, and relationships to build on,” notes Jeff Wolf, staff attorney, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “They will be able to play leadership roles in developing the community.”
Minority & Immigrant Survivors in Probate & Family Court: Building a Community of Practice is sponsored by: Boston Women’s Fund; Greater Boston Legal Services; Massachusetts Immigration & Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance; Suffolk University Law School Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service; and Wellesley Centers for Women.
The Multicultural Immigrant Coalition Against Violence (MICAV) is a group of domestic and sexual violence agencies, social service organizations, and immigrant service providers working together to develop, promote, and enhance prevention and intervention initiatives. Its goals are: to help the immigrant and refugee communities access efficient and appropriate domestic and sexual violence services; to provide domestic and sexual violence and immigrant service providers with training to become more effective resources for their clients and other organizations; and to advocate for policies at the federal, state, and local levels to increase the rights and safety of immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Visit www.micav.org to learn more.