The Lazarus Project

Resurrecting hope for Christian victims and survivors of family violence.

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Legal Advocacy

Because the court system can be so overwhelming and foreign to victims and survivors of abuse, a trained advocate is available to accompany them to court and to aid them in determining the best course of action for their particular case.

The advocate provides no legal advice, does not prepare legal briefings, and does not argue the case in court. The advocate does, however, provide legal information upon which the victim is able to make her own decisions.

The advocate does not attempt to sway the victim one way or the other, as one of the guiding principles of the Lazarus Project, and advocacy services in general, is the principle of self-determination. The role of the advocate is simply to provide the most up-to-date information possible so that the victim can make an informed choice upon what action, if any, she is to take.

Service of court papers

Many times, a sheriff is requested to serve papers in restraining order cases; however, there are times when the abuser evades service, and the sheriff’s “due diligence” requirements are fulfilled with only two attempts. In one such case, Christy* was having no end of difficulty in having her abuser served, and the sheriffs had given up.

Christy’s abuser was working the graveyard shift as a security guard, and the previous attempts to serve him (all done during the day) had been unsuccessful. Her advocate, along with another volunteer, waited all night on a stakeout in the parking lot of the abuser’s employer, finally serving him at 4:30 a.m.

When a restraining order is not able to be served on the restrained party (the respondent), the case is dropped, and the victim (the petitioner) remains unprotected. In this case, Christy was later able to obtain the restraining order she needed, because of the extreme measures taken by the Lazarus Project advocate.

*not her real name.

Court accompaniment

A minister referred Cheryl*, who already filed a restraining order and divorce papers against her abuser, a traveling evangelist. Cheryl met with the advocate from The Lazarus Project the evening before her scheduled court appearance on the restraining order matter. Cheryl had no money to retain an attorney, and was in need of having the divorce papers served on her abuser. The advocate arranged to have him served, and accompanied her to court the following morning.

The advocate prayed with Cheryl in the middle of the courthouse, before the abuser arrived, and shared with her an encouraging word of scripture to strengthen her for the battle to follow. This was the first encouraging word she’d heard for some time: Cheryl had been abandoned by her church after disclosing the abuse. The abuser had hired a very aggressive attorney, who fought the restraining order with all his might. He accused Cheryl of being an unfit mother, and of harboring homicidal tendencies toward her two-year-old son. Cheryl had brought three witnesses who had known her abuser, and had traveled with them as the couple had ministered in numerous third-world countries spreading the gospel. Each of the witnesses was prepared to testify that day in court as to the abusive behavior they personally had observed in the evangelist. The court never heard them, as a lengthy process of negotiation ensued between Cheryl and the abuser’s attorney on matters of custody, support, and visitation.

Cheryl gave heed to her advocate, who instructed her in understanding the legal language and court process, and continually reminded her that she had the right to make choices about the outcome of her case. The very overbearing attorney was relentless in arguing for the abuser; the advocate was just as adamant that Cheryl not give in to his tactics and to hold out for the ultimate goal: safety for herself and her son. After six hours of negotiation, Cheryl emerged from the courtroom with an order of protection in which she had obtained all the protections she had requested from the court. Cheryl also left that day with a renewed sense of hope: that although her church had failed her and had sided with her abuser, this did not reflect the heart of God; that God had provided for her in her time of need by sending the advocate as His representative of His love for her; and that her Lord had truly not abandoned her—that just as He had done in the Old Testament when Israel was outnumbered by enemy forces, He had wrought a miraculous victory for her and her son, even without legal counsel.

*not her real name.

Legal advocacy

A minister referred Gigi*, who had lost custody of her children to Child Protective Services (CPS). A former victim of domestic violence, Gigi had remarried after having left her abuser, but had continued contact with him as they had conceived a daughter with whom he had regular visits.

During several of these visits, the father molested the child, and when the child had informed the mother, she had, rather innocently, asked questions of the daughter so that she could report it. Upon reporting the molestation, Gigi was charged with emotional abuse, and the child was removed from her home. CPS botched the investigation of the molestation, and the father was never criminally charged.

Months later, Gigi had worked hard to comply with all of CPS’ requirements in order to regaining custody of her child; however, they were attempting to coerce Gigi to engage in couples counseling with her former husband, who had abused her and had molested his own daughter. Moreover, CPS was threatening to terminate the parental rights of the mother if she did not do so—although such action was clearly not in the child’s best interest. The father was against Gigi ever regaining custody of her child. This is an extreme example of emotional and psychological abuse: arranging circumstances to deprive a mother of her right to parent her child.

Gigi’s advocate accompanied her to dependency court, and had been asked by Gigi’s attorney to testify as an expert witness that the requirements being imposed upon her by CPS were unreasonable, dangerous, and ill-advised. The Lazarus Project advocate informed Gigi’s attorney that CPS was violating protocols set forth by the Domestic Violence Council of Santa Clara County (on which the advocate sits as a commissioner), as well as the Greenbook, a national project of policy recommendations set forth by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Armed with this information, the attorney successfully argued the case, and the child was returned to the mother, with a court order allowing only supervised visitation with the father.

*not her real name.