For this quarters Program Spotlight, we would like to highlight the amazing work of MCASA’s Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI). SALI is the only statewide service provider in Maryland devoted solely to the legal needs of sexual assault survivors. Several legal services or dual domestic violence/rape crisis centers provide legal services to victims of IPV, but they generally serve SA victims only if the perpetrator is an intimate partner. Legal assistance for survivors “can greatly enhance the quality of the victim/survivor experience in the legal process and improve outcomes,” (Office on Violence Against Women, 2012).
Over the past 16 years, SALI’s efforts have had an impact. When SALI opened its doors in 2003, most SA service providers, prosecutors, private attorneys, and others working in the field had little training or expertise in the legal needs of survivors other than prosecution of offenders. Low-income SA survivors had nowhere to turn unless they also could be categorized as IPV victims. Victims of stranger rape, campus SA, or sexual violence by coworkers or acquaintances were all simply left without legal services.
SALI staff have the cultural awareness, humility, and skill to provide all survivors with meaningful access to legal services. SALI provides services to survivors across the lifespan and approximately 30% of survivors served are under 18. SALI clients reflect the diversity of survivors in Maryland: about 88% are female, and about two-thirds of clients are people of color. Bi-lingual advocates and attorneys are on staff and over 20% of clients prefer to communicate in a language other than English. Survivors can call SALI at 301-565-2277 to speak to an advocate. All survivors who contact SALI can have a consultation with an attorney, and many receive representation in criminal, civil, and family law cases.
SALI cases include:
In addition to providing direct services, SALI attorneys and advocates have trained over 6,200 informal partners, including forensic nurses, prosecutors, law enforcement, judges, lawyers, college and university personnel, and other service providers. SALI has developed written materials about the basic civil legal needs of survivors and distributed more than 77,000 of these English and Spanish brochures throughout the State. SALI has grown from 1 litigating attorney to 5, and has provided lawyers to more than 3,000 survivors.
Thank you to the hardworking SALI staff for their continued dedicated work and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence.
Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 2012 biennial report to Congress on the effectiveness of grant programs under the Violence Against Women Act, http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/ovw/legacy/2014/03/13/2012-biennial-report-to-congress.pdf.
Office of the Vice President, 1 is 2 Many: Twenty Years Fighting Violence Against Women and Girls, September 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/2014_vawa_report.pdf.