The Legislation and Civil Rights Clinic received the Community Champion Award from DV LEAP (Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project) for its work on the DV LEAF project, which advocates for the inclusion of voices and needs of domestic violence survivors in climate policy. Clinic Director Mary Karin, clinic students, staff, colleagues and their families attended a ceremony at Oxon Run Park in D.C. to receive the award and plant a tree in honor of survivors.

The Clinic created a series of resources for the project aimed at policymakers and advocates to provide research and help develop law and public policy that supports survivors of gender-based violence who are also impacted by climate change. The resources explore the scope of the problem for vulnerable communities (including environmental refugees, Indigenous, Black, brown and other survivors), media stories that amplify the voices of survivors of domestic violence impacted by climate change and the failure of existing law to adequately address their experiences. Clinic students also prepared a letter to the Biden-Harris administration urging them to release a statement acknowledging the intersection of climate change and domestic violence, collect data to support the claim and expand policy that protects survivors. They also advocated for the D.C. Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency to highlight the problem in our local community.

According to DV LEAF, stressors experienced during climate disasters – financial strain, loss of home or job – can spark feelings of powerlessness and a need for control. These feelings are often precursors to violence, thus leading to an increase in rates and severity of domestic violence following climate disasters. Furthermore, these climate events may damage or hinder services such as shelters or courts, leaving survivors without access to resources.

3L Francesca Bryce worked with the Legislation and Civil Rights Clinic this fall. She and her clinic partner 3L Azuree Bowman wrote the letter to the White House Gender Policy Council that argued for including the domestic violence and climate change relationship in their National Action Plan. Bryce discussed how this work has prepared her to practice law, promote justice and change lives. “Through this clinic, I can advocate for those negatively impacted by legislation that has failed to protect them adequately. This clinic also allows me to learn more about the trends of climate change and its impact on vulnerable communities. I can potentially change lives by aiding a vulnerable community and bringing light to this issue that will only worsen if not addressed.” Bowman added that working with the Legislation Clinic will help her reach her career goals. “The work that I did in this clinic helped me become aware and fully understand the impact climate change has on domestic violence survivors. My hope is to maintain all the useful skills I’ve learned in this clinic and continue to advocate for change.”

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