Carolyn Rumer

  • Hosted by Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  • Sponsored by Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school University of Virginia School of Law
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Carolyn focuses on breaking the cycle of violence by increasing economic security for low-income domestic violence survivors in D.C. by helping them obtain and maintain public benefits, child support, and employment.

Domestic Violence is a serious problem in the District of Columbia. In 2015, D.C. police received a domestic violence-related phone call every fifteen minutes. Nearly one-third of unaccompanied homeless women in D.C. indicate that violence is the cause of their housing instability. Survivors are typically in crisis when they are trying to leave an abusive situation, making it hard for them to focus on longer-term strategies, such as enhancing economic security, for ending the cycle of violence. Financial insecurity is a primary reason that victims reunite with abusive partners.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Carolyn has:

  • Increased economic stability for more than 175 survivors of domestic violence and their family members resulting in a collective financial benefit of $375,568.51.
  • Created an internal screening system within Legal Aid, leading to 87 referrals from its family law lawyers for survivors who were filing for Civil Protection Orders and faced public benefits or employment issues.
  • Filed an appeal at the D.C. Court of Appeals to challenge the agency’s sanction for an intentional program violation against a survivor whose boyfriend used her food stamps without her permission.
  • Collaborated with advocates and testified before the D.C. Council to share clients’ stories in support of legislation, which passed in FY2018, eliminating the 60-month time limit for families receiving TANF.
  • Provided comprehensive representation to multiple survivors, including representation in Civil Protection Orders and an eviction case, in addition to addressing their public benefits needs.
  • Obtained Medicaid for twelve previously uninsured families, including emergency Medicaid for a mother two days before she gave birth.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Carolyn plans to:

  • Continue to provide direct representation in public benefits, child support, Civil Protection Order, and unemployment insurance cases.
  • Expand upon the employment advice and representation to survivors at risk of losing their jobs or taking unpaid time off because of domestic violence.
  • Build upon relationships with other domestic-violence providers to increase awareness of common economic issues facing survivors and facilitate cross-referrals and comprehensive support for victims.
  • Work with community groups to increase education for immigrant populations and survivors regarding the public benefits that their families are eligible for in the District of Columbia.

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