Throughout her career, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon has been a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence. As an Assistant State’s Attorney in Jackson County, she prosecuted domestic violence cases, and as professor at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law, she helped launch a domestic violence clinic to train law students and to serve clients at no cost. The clinic now operates a second site at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lt. Governor Simon will continue working to develop tools and resources for survivors and families affected by domestic violence.
The Virtual Legal Clinic
Lt. Governor Simon worked with the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence to pilot the state's first Virtual Legal Clinic for domestic violence survivors in December 2011 at the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria. By late 2013, the Virtual Legal Clinic has expanded to six domestic violence agencies, potentially reaching 4,000 domestic violence survivors across 16 counties. The objective of the Virtual Legal Clinic is to connect survivors, in rural and underserved areas, who may not have access to legal representation, with volunteer attorneys. Via webcam, an attorney provides a free, confidential consultation to a survivor on matters including divorce, maintenance and marital property, child custody and visitation, debt, bankruptcy and other legal matters.
One in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. In Illinois, the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner is nearly 40 percent. The Virtual Legal Clinic helps bridge the gap between survivors’ needs for legal consultation and those areas of the state where there are few, if any, attorneys skilled in family law and domestic violence issues.
In 2014, the Virtual Legal Clinic will be expanding to more agencies across the state to deliver objective legal information and advice to domestic violence survivors who might not otherwise have access to a lawyer.
The Virtual Legal Clinic is recruiting attorneys who are willing to volunteer time to work with domestic violence survivors. Please contact Lt. Governor Simon’s Chicago office at (312) 814-5240 for more information.
To find out more about the Virtual Legal Clinic, please see the Interim Report here.
Partnering to Promote Awareness
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. In 2013, at the end of her third annual cell phone drive, Lt. Governor Simon joined Verizon in mid-October to present $5,000 each to the Cairo Women’s Shelter and HOPE located in Rochelle, two domestic violence shelters demonstrating financial need. Verizon contributed $10,000, $10 for each cell phone donated. Cell phone donations are accepted year-round at Verizon Wireless stores and at the Lt. Governor’s offices in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. For the second year in a row, Lt. Governor Simon is partnering with the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence to promote a teen video competition where high school students from around the state produce videos to help their peers identify the signs of an unhealthy relationship and encourage victims to seek help.
Review the Illinois Domestic Violence Act
Illinois laws provide more protection to a wider range of victims than do the laws of many other states. However, there is more work to be done. Lt. Governor Simon will work with stakeholders and volunteer legal experts to make sure that our laws reach all victims, cover all forms of abuse and harassment, and provide effective remedies.