St. Louis Divorce Attorney
Call Us (314) 721-2422

(314) 721-2422

Attorneys Lead Family Violence Education Effort

From – Monthly News Magazine Of The Bar Association Of Metropolitan St. Louis

April 7,1999

Everyone will agree that family violence is a real problem in our community. Every day, there are women (and some men) in-the courthouse seeking an order of protection against a spouse, former spouse, or a partner. A number of agencies provide services to families affected by domestic violence. But the first place a victim often turns is to a counselor or clergy.

Many of these professionals do not receive specialized training in school, yet it is imperative that they understand the issues and know about the -options available to both the battered and the batterer. Three local women attorneys are spearheading an effort to reach out and educate the professional community about family violence.

Leigh Joy Carson, Marta J. Papa and Jody H. Wolff are attorneys who practice primarily in the area of family law and they routinely see women (and some men) whose lives have been affected by family violence. “Unfortunately, I often don’t see victims of abuse until they have been suffering for a very long time,” says Papa. ‘They wait until the abuse has become so violent that they have the bruises to prove it; then they contact a lawyer. The severity of abuse might have been prevented if her minister or Rabbi or neighbor or friend had-known how to help.

The battered woman often has no idea where to get help. It is shameful and embarrassing to reveal much of her story, and she may have lost so much self-esteem and self-confidence that she feels trapped. If she reaches out, it is often to a counselor or someone from the religious community and they need to know how to help her.

Judge Thomas Frawley suggested the idea of an educational program for clergy and other professional on family violence and these women responded to the challenge. They have brought together a “who’s who” panel of speakers, including not only Judge Frawley (the Administrative Advocates “Person of the Year” in 1997) but also Dee Joyce Hayes, the (Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis) and Colonel Ron Henderson (Chief of Police for the City Of St. Louis). These well known officials will join and expert on Batterer’s programs, the Director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Head of the Family Violence Unit and other experts in speaking at a Symposium on Family Violence on April 13, 1999 from 9:15 12:15. Washington University has graciously agreed to provide the space for the Symposium, as well as the refreshments.

Each of the organizers of this program has had a unique role.

Leigh Joy Carson has been in charge of “getting the word out” about the Symposium among local clergy and their response so far has been tremendous. “We have had members of most of the major denominations indicate that they would be attending, and more pre-registrations come in every day,” Carson says. Now the focus is letting lay people know about the program so they can invite their clergy.

Marta J. Papa has been using her considerable connections to the mental health community to publicize the program among psychologists, social workers and marriage and family counselors. Again, the response has been very positive. “Many therapists have told me that they will attend the Symposium not for the edu-cational value, but to show sup-port for the community out-reach and to be informal resources for the clergy, both at the program and in the future,” says Papa.

Jody H. Wolff has been working on contacting the administrators of local Employ-ee Assistance Programs (“EAP”s). She has found that EAP offered are very aware of the problem of family violence and they have offered to help publicize the event. ‘The EAP programs are already doing education in the area of domes-tic violence. In fact, Ameren-UE does a program on domes-tic Violence once a month,” says Wolff.

Although Carson, Papa and Wolff are either sole practitioners or members of a small firm (Wolff has one partner), they all feel richly rewarded by the opportunity to work on the Symposium. “It is a challenge, but the problem of family violence is so important, it is time well spent,” says Carson. ‘Working on a community out-reach program like this helps you realize that if we work together, we can make a difference,” says Wolff.

The public is invited to attend the Symposium at no charge. However, pre-registration is appreciated. You can contact Marta J. Papa at 862-0202 or fax her at 862-3626 for more information or to register.