The U.S. Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will start a new Expanding Legal Services Initiative (ELSI) under the Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program, DOJ announced. ELSI will support entities that do not have a legal representation program and need help establishing one. DOJ said grantees will receive training to help create a legal program from the ground up, while prioritizing racial equity and underserved communities. OVW will release the solicitation for this new initiative in the fall. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations and tribal organizations that intend to provide legal representation to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
The legal aid program was discussed in an annual release of DOJ funds totalling nearly $50 million to provide survivors of gender-based violence with access to legal services and improve effective coordination of justice systems affecting victim and family safety. Earlier, OVW’s Justice for Families Program awarded $14,191,208 to 26 projects to improve the response of the civil and criminal justice systems to families with a history of domestic violence. The Justice for Families Program also supports supervised visitation and safe exchange of children. OVW Acting Director Allison Randall said meaningful legal representation for survivors "is vital, but can be difficult to attain in the aftermath of violence, or when someone is still trying to find safety. Grantees ...help survivors navigate complicated processes and potentially dangerous points along the way, including supervised visitation, protection orders, and divorce.”