Stacey Sarver '03Stacey Sarver '03 is Senior Attorney at the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Legal Director of WomensLaw.org, a project of NNEDV.
Stacey explains that the mission of WomensLaw.org is to provide easy-to-understand legal information and resources to women living with or escaping domestic violence. Since joining the organization in February 2008, Stacey has been in charge of all of the legal content contained on the website. She wishes every women confronting domestic violence could have access to a free or affordable competent lawyer, but the vast majority of women remain unrepresented. The website provides state-specific information about domestic violence and family law in "plain language," thereby helping women across the country lead lives free of abuse.
She also manages the e-mail hotline, where women write in with questions or to obtain referrals for an attorney or domestic violence organization when struggling to end an abusive situation. Stacey and staff receive 3,000 to 5,000 e-mail inquiries a year. Each e-mail is answered within 5 business days, and the responses are tailored to each person’s specific needs. The staff and volunteers know that the information they provide can make a profound difference and affect the women—and their children—for the rest of their lives.
Stacey also trains students, including those active with Fordham Law School’s Domestic Violence Action Center, on how to be hotline responders. Students are asked to commit to answering the hotline for one semester, but often the dedicated students continue to do so for years.
The biggest challenge currently is the limit on what the organization can do in the face of such a large need. WomensLaw.org provides critical information, support, and referrals, but at the end of the day many women fleeing an abusive situation must do so without legal representation. From Stacey’s perspective, a woman who has managed to leave her abuser should not then have to face him unrepresented during a subsequent custody hearing.
When asked to share a success story, Stacey immediately conveys the satisfaction she gets from the regular feedback WomensLaw.org receives from those they help. Women frequently write saying that the information on the website or in the e-mail made a real difference. She is often told that WomensLaw.org was the only place that took the time to respond; that response, together with the specific information on domestic violence, proves invaluable. The personal stories and connections are the rewards that keep Stacey going.
Although the lack of lawyers to assist women trying to escape domestic violence continues to be a crisis, Stacey reports that there have been some statutory improvements in individual states. Some states have provided longer orders of protections or identified more grounds upon which to secure an order of protection. Other states now require the partner with the greatest income to cover the cost of the attorney or forensic evaluation, which can be a tremendous benefit to a low-income woman trying to escape abuse.
When asked about the primary impact of the Stein Scholars Program, Stacey immediately replies, “I loved the Stein Scholars Program!” She is very proud to call herself a Stein and feels a strong kinship to anyone who wants to dedicate his/her career to public interest. The Stein Scholars Program provided her with a true sense of community. In fact, her three closest friends throughout law school are women she met during her first days of the Stein Program and they are still friends today. The connection with fellow Steins was an integral part of why she loved Fordham Law.
Stacey came to the Law School knowing that she wanted to work in the field of domestic violence. Prior to joining WomensLaw.org, she represented low-income domestic violence victims in Bronx and Staten Island family courts and in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Manhattan. Her advice to current Steins is to stay the course if public interest work is their true calling. While not minimizing the impact of large loans and financial strain, Stacey strongly believes it is possible to make a public interest career work, and the satisfaction of pursuing one’s passion can’t be matched!