Freedom from Domestic Violence is a Human Right

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10th. It honors the day on which, in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It’s 2015 and domestic violence is still treated as a private matter. Applying a human rights framework provides a way to interrupt this perception and reframe it as a national problem. Indeed, in the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, and one in four women are abused by their partners.

Yet, numerous barriers exist in the U.S. to preventing domestic violence and holding perpetrators accountable. One such barrier is the severe lack of legal representation in civil court available to domestic violence resisters, whether in seeking restraining orders, custody of their children, or money damages. Despite the fact that basic needs are at stake in these proceedings, there is no constitutional right to counsel in civil cases.

A human rights framework requires that governments provide individuals with access to court and to an adequate and adequate remedy when their rights are violated. Human rights standards also call for governments to ensure their citizens are free from want and free from fear.

Until our government guarantees housing, food, and legal counsel to domestic violence resisters, the Alipato Project will continue to represent abused families in civil court to help obtain financial reparations from their batterers. For Human Rights Day, please donate to the Alipato Project to help us pay for rent in 2016!


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Alipato Project Wins Another Judgment Against a Batterer

The Alipato Project’s Legal Director Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas and Volunteer Attorney Rowena Collins represented P in a civil suit against D for damages arising out of domestic abuse. When D willfully ignored P’s civil complaint, P’s attorneys obtained an entry of default on her behalf.

At the default judgment hearing, offered into evidence her medical records, photographs of injuries, and the testimony of her brave daughter, sister, and friends. P testified that subjected her to years of physical abuse and sexual assault.

On one occasion, shortly after D grabbed P by the ribcage and slammed her down onto their bed, P began to exhibit flu-like symptoms. Her body ached and she had a fever. Hiding her bruises, went to the emergency room because she believed she had the flu. The doctor informed that the fever was from the physical injuries she suffered as a result of D’s reprehensible actions: she had bruises all over her body and a serious rib injury. To this day, although more than a decade has passed since this incident, she continues to suffer from pain in her ribs.

After years of resisting domestic violence, P left her abuser. She was able to do so with the help of her family and friends who gave her the financial and emotional support she needed to escape for good.

The judge awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages for her pain and suffering. Notably, the judge said to P, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” and… “I hope you have a good weekend.”

Alipato Project thanks the following volunteers for helping P with her case:

Rowena Collins volunteered countless hours interviewing P, drafting pleadings and moving papers, compiling evidence, and attending hearings. Attorney Collins led with her heart, prioritized P’s emotional wellbeing, and created a safe space for P to share her entire story.

Talia Alarid courageously waited outside of D’s home for hours to personally serve him P’s summons and complaint. This saved Alipato Project from having to hire a professional process server. (As a nonprofit organization, every dollar saved goes toward helping other resisters of domestic violence.)

Alipato Project Reaches First Settlement: The Landmark Boblitt v. Boblitt Case

Linda Boblitt made case law when she appealed the trial court’s decision to throw out her civil case against her batterer on the basis of issue preclusion. Linda Boblitt’s abuser’s lawyers argued that since incidents of domestic violence were brought up in the parties’ earlier divorce case, Linda Boblitt had no right to sue her ex-husband for his long history of physical and emotional abuse.

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s dismissal, holding that the party raising issue preclusion has the burden of “showing that the parties litigated in the dissolution proceeding all of the allegations of domestic violence on which Linda’s current tort action is based were, in fact, litigated and decided against her in the dissolution proceeding.” Boblitt v. Boblitt. 190 Cal.App.4th 606, 614, (2010).

Five years later, Linda Boblitt hired the Alipato Project to litigate the rest of her civil claim. See the news excerpt below:

“Canlas settled her first case in Sacramento County. Her client, Linda Boblitt agreed to a settlement of $13,500, a figure that Canlas believed was too low. Boblitt was exhausted from the arduous process and learned that the defendant did not have much more than $13,500 to give. Over the span of a few decades, Boblitt’s ex-husband had broken her jaw, knocked out her teeth, and hit her with a car…

After the settlement conference and the agreement, the judge gave Canlas some needed encouragement. “He told me, ‘Keep it up, you’re doing God’s work.'””

> read more in the East Bay Express!

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All Contributions to the Alipato Project are Now Tax-Deductible!

After over 2 years, the IRS has finally determined that the Alipato Project is a tax-exempt public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code!

Our case was particularly complicated because our primary purpose is to sue individuals (perpetrators of domestic violence) on behalf of individuals (survivors of abuse). At first glance, our work seemed to only benefit private interests.

However, we successfully demonstrated that our work serves the public interest for the following reasons:

(a) Alipato Project only represents clients who are low-income or who have been diagnosed with a disability as a result of abuse;

(b) Alipato Project charges below-market rates on a sliding scale basis and continues to provide representation to clients who can not make payments;

(c) Alipato Project’s work aims to deter all perpetrators from committing further abuse by putting them on notice that future misconduct will come at a substantial price.

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If you’ve been waiting for this moment to make a donation, please donate today!

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The Alipato Project would like to thank the following organizations for helping us through this process:


Special thanks to:

  • Janelle Orsi, Sustainable Economies Law Center
  • Hasmik Geghamyan, Sustainable Economies Law Center
  • William Kell, Berkeley Law New Business Practicum
  • Mei Li, Berkeley Law New Business Practicum
  • R. Stuyvie Pyne, Berkeley Law New Business Practicum

Interview with Alipato Project’s Founder on Feministing Five

We wrapped up Sexual Assault Awareness Month with an interview on Feministing, one of our favorite blogs! Click here to read the full article.

Alipato Project’s Founder Featured in Positively Filipino Magazine

Learn more about Alipato Project’s founder Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas in this human interest piece by Positively Filipino!

Revenge Porn Now a Crime in California

Posting intimate pictures of your ex on the internet with the intent to inflict serious emotional distress is now a crime in California.

First Amendment advocates like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation opposed this new law. They argue that the law infringed on one’s Constitutionally protected right to share information the public needs to know.

Victim advocates like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative on the other hand believe the new statute does not go far enough because it only protects victims whose photos were taken by the perpetrator.  The statute does not take into account photos taken by the victim but shared without their permission.

Other critics point out that it might be too hard to prove that a perpetrator of “revenge porn” intended to inflict serious emotional distress. Indeed, there are many other reasons why one might post a pornographic photo without their ex’s consent: extortion, compensation, to brag, or even as a joke.

Anthony Cannella, the senator who authored the bill admits, “I think this is a great first step… But we need to do more.” For now, the hope is that the threat of a $1000 fine or six months in jail is enough to deter folks from committing revenge porn.

As an organization in search of justice outside of the prison industrial complex, the Alipato Project is hesitant to celebrate yet another “crime” added to the books.

We strongly believe that as a society, we should focus on addressing the harms caused to a survivor instead of on the wrongs committed by a perpetrator.

Our office currently represents a survivor whose ex-partner allegedly shared intimate photos of her without her consent. However, instead of arguing that her ex should go to jail, we argue that he should financially compensate our client for the emotional distress he inflicted on her.

This type of solution gives victims the money they need to pay for counseling sessions and other forms of therapy that restore dignity and promote healing.

As for deterring future acts of “revenge porn,” we as a community need to work toward a major culture-shift. Together, we can and must strive for a society in which what is labeled “shameful” and “embarrassing” isn’t that intimate photos have been made public, but the malicious act of posting another’s pornographic photos without their consent.

Since 2400 BCE

One of our board members, Tara Ramanthan, is doing just that. She is building a group for male-identified folks to discuss masculinity, gender violence, patriarchy, sex, and love. Help her promote community and healing by giving her feedback in this survey.