Summer at the Weinberg Center : A Legal Intern's Perspective

By Milvelys Hernandez, Legal Intern, Summer 2015

My internship at the Weinberg Center was almost halfway over when I had what I would later come to view as the defining experience of the summer. I accepted this internship because the Weinberg Center's mission is in line with my career goal of working as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. I expected the majority of my internship work to be spent researching New York State laws and drafting memos for the attorneys at the office. Instead, however, I had the unique opportunity to meaningfully connect with several of the Weinberg Center's clients. These interactions impacted my entire internship experience, allowing me to see first-hand how all the work I was doing contributed towards giving a voice to vulnerable clients.

One client who had a particularly strong impact on me was Mr. B., an 82 years old man, diagnosed with numerous disabilities. He had already been at the shelter once before, prior to my internship with the Weinberg Center, because his granddaughter was verbally, physically, psychologically, and sexually abusing him. She would lose her patience very easily, attempt to strangle him, and even threatened to stab Mr. B. During Mr. B's first stay at the Weinberg Center's emergency shelter, he used his cellphone to stay in contact with his granddaughter. She would call each day expressing her remorse, and promising to go to therapy. Mr. B decided to leave the shelter and return to his granddaughter because he felt guilt for leaving and wanted to give her another chance. He believed that his granddaughter was sick and had no one else to care for her but him. Upon returning to his apartment, the abuse quickly resumed and once again began to escalate. As a result, Mr. B had to obtain an Order of Protection against his granddaughter and was readmitted to the Weinberg Center.

I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. B the day after he was readmitted to the Weinberg Center. I helped translate information from social workers and attorneys to Mr. B, who speaks Spanish much better than English. Also, I assisted him in picking a health care provider to cover some of his expenses at the facility and provided him with extra clothes. I even took Mr. B. around the facility so that he could meet and speak with some of the friends he had made during his previous stay.

Today, Mr. B still struggles with understanding the importance of maintaining no contact with his granddaughter and complying with the Order of Protection. However, Mr. B made a request to be escorted to his apartment to pick up his belongings. This is a big step in Mr. B's recovery, signaling a more permanent departure from the apartment he had shared with his granddaughter for so long. It was a very difficult decision for Mr. B to make because of his mixed feelings towards his granddaughter, but it demonstrates that he is ready to begin the healing process and start a new chapter in his life. We are confident that when Mr. B ultimately returns to the community, he will be free from the cycle of violence perpetrated by his granddaughter.

This experience confirmed my feelings about how critical a passionate advocate can be in the life of a family violence victim. Mr. B and people like him motivate my unique passion for public service, and my desire to work on behalf of victims of domestic violence. As an attorney, I will strive to give people like Mr. B. a voice, supporting their autonomy and encouraging their growth.