Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center, PSC (DALAC) is a nonprofit law firm that provides pro bono legal services to residents of collaborating Minnesota domestic abuse shelters. Since 2016, through legal advocacy provided by dozens of volunteer attorneys, DALAC has helped resolve legal issues for hundreds of residents and their children.

Mission

DALAC’s mission is to stop the cycle of domestic abuse through legal advocacy. Legal advocacy is critical action that can help to redefine a domestic abuse victim’s personal safety and security to overcome traumatic experiences and can ultimately lead to breaking the cycle of domestic abuse. Studies show that victims need real, long-term alternatives to remaining in abusive relationships and “only the availability of legal services in a woman’s county of residence was found to reduce her likelihood of abuse.”  (Rosenberg & Grab, 2015, p.7)

Goals

Two goals support DALAC’s mission:

  1. To provide pro bono legal services to victims and survivors of domestic abuse at Minnesota shelters.
  2. To provide trainings and education to victims and survivors of domestic abuse, service providers, and the community with respect to legal rights, financial security, mental and physical health, and overall well-being.

The Way We Work

To accomplish Goal 1, DALAC has created a group of dedicated volunteer attorneys, licensed in Minnesota and in good standing, who provide the following legal services to the residents at the collaborating shelters: 

  • Monthly legal clinics at the shelters. The residents at these shelters, during their stay, are provided with legal advice and resources on a wide variety of legal issues during the monthly legal clinic. These issues typically include risk to personal safety, lack of financial resources, lack of transportation, inability to obtain childcare and lack of uncomplicated access to legal counsel. 
  • In-court representation on Orders for Protection (OFP) and eviction expungements. 
  • Pro bono legal services to residents in cases of a legal emergency in between the monthly clinics.

To address Goal 2, DALAC regularly conducts:

  • Trainings for our volunteer attorneys and the shelters’ advocates on issues that affect victims and survivors of domestic abuse, including trauma, mental illness awareness and cultural humility in domestic abuse legal advocacy. 
  • Trainings for our volunteer attorneys on advocacy skills. 
  • Trainings for staff of the two collaborating shelters on gaining a deeper understanding of the legal issues that affect victims and survivors of domestic abuse and on best practices from a legal perspective.
  • Community-based presentations on issues affecting domestic abuse victims and survivors and raising awareness about domestic abuse. To date we have reached more than 12,000 victims, survivors, and the community individuals through these events.

An evaluation of our services shows that legal advocacy provided by DALAC is both attainable by those in need and effective in helping victims and survivors of domestic abuse safely exit abusive relationships and situations. 

Trauma-Informed Services

DALAC is committed to being trauma-informed in delivering pro bono legal services to residents at the shelters and in providing resources to our volunteer attorneys and the shelters’ advocates regarding secondary or vicarious trauma (indirect trauma that can occur when exposed to traumatic stories second-hand).

  • DALAC is continually reviewing and updating our processes to minimize re-traumatizing the residents and their children. For example, since our inception, we have had a policy that prohibits children from being present during meetings between the resident and the volunteer attorney. This policy is based on research showing the impact of trauma on a child’s development. 
  • DALAC is also implementing programming regarding secondary or vicarious trauma for our volunteer attorneys and the shelters’ advocates. It is not uncommon for those of us who work in this area to be impacted by the trauma of those we serve. DALAC is dedicated to ensuring the mental well-being of our volunteer attorneys and the shelters’ advocates.

Funding

Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center, PSC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm that relies heavily on donations from individuals and businesses to do our work. While the services we provide make a difference for victims escaping domestic abuse and we will continue to provide these pro bono legal services by volunteer attorneys, there are many additional sensitive and complex legal issues that prevent victims from becoming independent and self-sufficient survivors. As a result, DALAC is looking to raise $500,000 to hire a team of attorneys to provide in-court representation for Harassment Restraining Orders (HROs), legal separation, divorce, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance that extend past the clients’ residencies at the shelters. Funding DALAC in this way would bridge the gap between quality legal assistance and victims striving for new lives as survivors of domestic violence.

Board Chair and Founder

Evon M. Spangler is the Board Chair and Founder of DALAC. In her roles, she manages the day-to-day operations of the organization, sets its vision and implements the vision with the support of the additional board of directors; all directors are volunteers who provide pro bono legal services to the organization in their capacities as fiduciaries and to the residents of the shelters the organization collaborates with here in Minnesota.

For more than twenty-five years, Evon, in different capacities has helped victims and survivors of domestic abuse safely exit violent relationships. Being passionate about helping others and understanding how trauma plays a critical role in the lives of domestic violence victims and survivors, she saw an unmet need in Minnesota domestic abuse shelters and founded DALAC on January 4, 2016. 

In her decades of experience as a former trial attorney, Evon saw how legal advocacy plays a vital and critical role in stopping the cycle of abuse. Legal advocacy empowers individuals and removes obstacles and barriers when used effectively. The innovative model that is utilized by DALAC is founded in trauma-informed legal advocacy. Each year since its inception, through Evon’s vision as Board Chair and Founder and the support of DALAC’s board of directors, DALAC adds additional trauma-informed practices to its innovative model. In August 2021, Evon started obtaining her certificate in Trauma-Informed Advocacy in Legal Systems through Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and received her certification in November 2021.

Publications

Spangler, Evon M.; de Stefano, Perry M; and Schromen, Rachel T., “The Role of Victimization versus Survivorship for Victims of Domestic Abuse: How to Use Personal and Community Resources to Move from Victimization to Survivorship.” The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social, and Cultural Context. Volume 11, Issue 4 (December, 2015), 1-10.

Spangler, Evon M. and de Stefano, Perry M., “A Practitioner’s Viewpoint: Effectively Representing an Incompetent Client in Custody Proceedings,” International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, Vol. 3, No. 5, (September, 2013)

Spangler, Evon M. and McFarland, MiaLisa, “A Parent’s Undocumented Immigration Status Should Not Be Considered Under the Best Interests of the Child Standard,” William Mitchell Law Review, Volume 35, Number 1, (2008)