Individuals experiencing domestic violence face serious risks when choosing to leave an abusive relationship and/or file for an Order of Protection. Abusers often grow more dangerous when they believe that they have lost control of the victim. To enhance victim safety, the St. Louis County DV Court offers local domestic violence agencies the opportunity to provide advocacy both at the time of filing for an Order of Protection and at the time of the court hearing.
Legal Advocates for Abused Women (LAAW), a program of the Crime Victim Advocacy Center, through its County Order of Protection Assistance (COPA) program, provides advocacy and assistance to victims of domestic violence who come to the courthouse to file for an Order of Protection. COPA advocates provide immediate crisis support, safety planning, information about the court system and victims' rights under the Adult Abuse Law, assistance completing the petition for an Order of Protection, legal referrals and referrals to other community resources. The COPA office is located inside the Adult Abuse Office, on the Street Level of the St. Louis County Courthouse, Room S25, 105 S. Central, Clayton 63105. Advocates in the COPA office may be available Monday through Friday during the regular Adult Abuse Office hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call (314) 615-3210. For more information about the services provided by LAAW, please visit: www.supportvictims.org
Trained advocates are available to meet with petitioners at their full Order of Protection hearing. Advocates attend each of the weekly DV Court dockets to provide support, answer questions about the court process, develop safety plans and provide referrals to various community resources. These advocates generally sit in the jury box and can be approached if a Petitioner has a question or a concern. The judge may request that certain petitioners meet with an advocate, or the advocates will approach Petitioners to offer their services.
Children who have witnessed domestic violence often have voices that go unheard. In the DV Court, such children are recognized as victims too. Volunteer attorneys are routinely appointed to represent children and ensure that their interests are protected. These volunteer attorneys often develop custody and visitation plans intended to keep the children and the victim safe.