You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Many sexual assault survivors unaware free legal help is available


Sexual assault is not just a criminal justice issue. Sexual assault is a public health and human rights issue that profoundly affects victims, their loved ones and society.

Nearly 1 in 3 adult Texans will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. In more than 70 percent of sexual assault cases, the perpetrator is someone within the victim’s circle of trust — a family member, friend or co-worker. In all cases, the experience is traumatic and life-altering.

Physical injuries are accompanied by emotional, legal and economic consequences. Survivors often feel helpless, scared and ashamed. Some even blame themselves and are reluctant to report or prosecute the assailant. And while trying to heal physically and emotionally, survivors must also confront legal issues that extend far beyond navigating the criminal justice system.

Common legal issues arising in the aftermath of sexual assault involve safety and family violence concerns, access to health insurance and disability benefits, time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, immigration processes, privacy interests, educational effects, Crime Victims’ Compensation claims and housing issues. Many sexual assault survivors are unaware that free legal help is just a phone call away.

As part of an annual empowerment campaign, April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Among other initiatives this year, the Texas judiciary is working with the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to raise awareness that free legal help is available through the Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault network.

By calling LASSA’s toll-free number — 1-844-303-7233 (SAFE) — survivors who qualify for legal aid can connect with advocates who provide free legal advice and referral to legal aid providers across the state. Through LASSA, sexual assault survivors can obtain help with safety and financial concerns, including securing a protective order; resolving child custody, child support and domestic violence issues; ensuring a safer working, educational or housing environment; and safeguarding their privacy.

Established in 2015, the LASSA initiative was made possible with $10 million in funding from the 84th session of the Texas Legislature. With that funding, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation provides grants to nine nonprofit organizations throughout the state to provide free legal services to survivors of sexual assault. LASSA grantees provide a range of free legal services; community, law enforcement and leadership training; and other resources and materials for sexual assault survivors.

In addition to legal advice and representation, LASSA has established relationships with domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers across Texas, enabling its providers to offer immediate assistance in response to a call for help. LASSA advocates also partner with colleges and universities to prioritize sexual assault awareness and prevention. LASSA leverages its academic partnerships to help ensure faculty and administrators are responsive to allegations of sexual assault and understand their legal obligations to survivors.

In the short time since its founding, LASSA has provided legal assistance to 4,500 sexual assault survivors, serving as a lifeline that enables survivors to protect themselves and move forward with their lives.

With continued financial support from the Texas Legislature, a community of legal advocates across the state will remain available to assist sexual assault survivors with the challenges that lie ahead. For free services that protect victims and their families from the safety, financial and legal ramifications of sexual violence, just call 1-844-303-7233 (SAFE).

A network of dedicated souls stands ready, willing and able to help.

Guzman has served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas since 2009. She is the first Latina to be elected to the high court and to statewide office in Texas. She serves as the Texas Supreme Court’s liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Herman: 'My Cousin Vinny' and the race for State Bar president
Herman: 'My Cousin Vinny' and the race for State Bar president

Let us count the ways that it’s well worth your time and trouble to become a lawyer. You get to help people and make a living wage doing it — perhaps even enough to live in Austin. And you get to stand up in court and say cool stuff like, “I object!” And you get to star on cloying daytime TV ads hunting for people who have been...
Bestsellers, 4/30/17
Bestsellers, 4/30/17

NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS FICTION 1. ‘The Fix,’ David Baldacci 2. ‘The Black Book,’ James Patterson and David Ellis 3. ‘Fast and Loose,’ Stuart Woods 4. ‘Thrawn,’ Timothy Zahn 5. ‘All By Myself, Alone,” Marry Higgins Clark 6. ‘Norse Mythology,’ Neil Gaiman 7. ‘The Women...
Commentary: How the Legislature is choking the Texas film industry
Commentary: How the Legislature is choking the Texas film industry

AMC Network recently premiered 10 episodes of “The Son,” a series based on the celebrated novel spanning generations of Texans written by Austin novelist Philipp Meyer. Reviews highlighted that it was filmed on location here in Texas, with the landscape giving the series an epic heft. And if the Texas Legislature eliminates the Texas Moving...
A look at how laws promoted discrimination
A look at how laws promoted discrimination

Recommended reading “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein (Liveright). Legal scholar and housing expert Richard Rothstein examines one of the ugliest aspects of the American century and makes the argument that it was laws themselves, rather than the actions of private citizens...
Opinion: The day Bill O’Reilly got fired

On the day Bill O’Reilly was fired, Serena Williams announced she was 20 weeks pregnant. Fans did the math and concluded Williams must have had a baby on board in January when she won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title in dominating fashion. That, said TV tennis analyst Pam Shriver, made Williams’ win “even more spectacular.&rdquo...
More Stories