Press Release

U.S. Rep. Castor: U.S. Justice Dept. grant to combat domestic violence awarded to Bay Area Legal Services and The Spring of Tampa Bay

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Washington, September 8, 2014 | comments
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) announced today that Bay Area Legal Services will receive nearly $500,000 under the Legal Assistance for Victims Grants initiative and the Violence Against Women Act. The grant will strengthen civil and criminal legal assistance for adult and youth victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault.
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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) announced today that Bay Area Legal Services will receive nearly $500,000 under the Legal Assistance for Victims Grants initiative and the Violence Against Women Act.  The grant will strengthen civil and criminal legal assistance for adult and youth victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault.

“Domestic violence victims need our help in dealing with the personal and economic challenges tied to a violent household.  Bay Area Legal Services and The Spring of Tampa Bay are experts at serving families that suffer emotional and physical battery," U.S. Rep. Castor said.

"This grant was at risk, however, for many months as Republicans in Congress refused to bring the Violence Against Women Act – a bipartisan bill -- to the floor for a vote before it finally passed in early 2013. In addition, legal aid in Florida has been under significant stress and has received vetoes and cuts from Gov. Rick Scott every year since he has taken office.  Such cuts make this grant all the more vital."

Last year, Bay Area Legal Services assisted more than 1,200 domestic violence victims obtain injunctions, child custody, support and alimony, according to its website. Bay Area Legal Services is a nonprofit that provides civil legal assistance on an array of issues, including housing, veterans and consumer scams to low-income residents in Tampa Bay.

“Bay Area Legal Services is thankful for this opportunity to expand comprehensive legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Bay Area Legal Services will work with its partners, The Spring of Tampa Bay and Sunrise of Pasco County, to enhance safety and promote self-sufficiency,” said Joan Boles, Bay Area Legal Services Deputy Director.

“I’m delighted that Bay Area Legal Services received this grant. For some victims, the legal piece is the difference between leaving an abusive relationship or not,” said Mindy Murphy, CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, which has partnered with Bay Area Legal Services for more than 20 years. “It’s not uncommon, once a victim decides to leave, for the abuser to start using the court system as a way to continue terrorizing her. Having access to professional legal assistance not only helps her stay safe, but also provides another layer of support for a woman whose abuser may have isolated her from friends and family."

“The wheels of justice must turn for all working families and not just the wealthy,” U.S. Rep. Castor added. “Everyone should be treated with dignity. We have a community responsibility to help our neighbors escape violence and pursue a path of self-sufficiency."

In May, U.S. Rep. Castor helped defeat an amendment that proposed to completely eliminate federal support for families, veterans and seniors who rely on the Legal Services Corporation, which provides grants to Bay Area Legal Services and other legal aid organizations throughout the country that afford access to civil legal assistance. Legal Services Corporation had already undergone significant reductions over the past few years, and while the House Republican leadership still inflicted an additional 4 percent cut with the final passage of the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, U.S. Rep. Castor and others were successful in defeating the amendment that would have effectively eviscerated the nonprofit, independent Legal Services Corporation.

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