The University of Oregon Domestic Violence Clinic is celebrating their 20th anniversary on March 14, 2019, by hosting a gala and fundraiser in the Ford Alumni Center. The clinic is a part of the UO School of Law and provides free services for low-income community members and UO students who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Merle Weiner is the director of the Domestic Violence Clinic and has been spearheading the event coordination. “It’s like planning a wedding, but much worse,” she said playfully. The clinic is the thinnest of its kind in the area, according to Weiner. There are only four full-time attorneys working with clients, which is why they haven’t taken the time or dedicated the resources to such an event before.
“It’s time to say ‘Yay us!’ a little bit,” she said.
Tonya Harding, an American figure skater and Portland-native, will be sharing her experience with family violence at the event as the guest of honor. There will be hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction and a no-host bar, as well as performances by JazzArts Oregon and UO acapella group Divisi.
Weiner said after she watched the 2017 movie “I Tonya,” she knew she wanted Harding to speak at the clinic’s event. “This is really a story that needs to be heard more, this background that [Tonya Harding] has with violence,” Weiner said. “She was a low-income survivor like so many of our clients — she could be one of our clients.”
This is the first time Harding is using her platform to talk publicly about domestic and family violence. Weiner is excited to hear her message of hope and the importance of asking for help. The effects of domestic violence are long-lasting; the clinic wants those in attendance to understand that they are a resource for victims who are needing a way out.
Because the Domestic Violence clinic is not a legal service provider, everything they do is linked to education through UO. There are two clinical tracks within the main clinic, the Protective Order Clinic and the Civil Clinic. Law students are taught how to be attorneys by classroom instruction and are able to apply what they’ve learned through on-the-ground practice with clients. Last year, the clinic served 275 clients.
“It’s an invaluable educational experience. Some of the best learning our students do is in the clinic,” Weiner said.
Some students come to the UO Law School because of the clinic. Others, Weiner said, arrive at UO and discover their interest and passion toward domestic violence cases once they are exposed to real life and real situations.
The clinic hopes the gala garners attendance from a wide range of people. They want the public to be aware that their services are out there, Weiner said. Local advocacy programs Womenspace and SASS will be recognized, along with a few more organizations that the UO clinic partners with.
Weiner wants the event to be accessible, so tickets to the gala are available for purchase by the public until March 6 and are on a sliding scale of $25 to $100. “Pay what you can,” she said. More so, she doesn’t want the word ‘gala’ to be misleading when it comes to dress. The event will be cocktail attire; it is important to the clinic that people come and feel comfortable.
“I hope that everyone realizes what a community collaboration serving survivors is,” Weiner said.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets to the event.