BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Two University at Buffalo Law School professors
have taken steps to make the school a world-renowned center for
confronting what they call the epidemic of domestic-violence
crimes, locally and internationally.
The two law professors, Isabel S. Marcus and Suzanne E. Tomkins,
have used their teaching positions to coordinate a network of
domestic violence advocacy that so far reaches from the classrooms
of UB's O'Brian Hall to at least two other continents.
Both have recently organized a network within the Law School of
professors who share their passion for training professionals to
address the widespread problem of domestic abuse, cultivate
advocacy for victims, improve the legal system's response to
domestic violence and support research on related subjects, such as
women prisoners returning to society.
"The issue of domestic violence is a very compelling one, and it
has international as well as national and local dimensions," says
Marcus, who previously chaired UB's Department of Women's Studies.
"If you start thinking about it as a framing category for work and
for thinking about the world, then you can find people who suddenly
say, 'That's a topic I should include in my studies.'
"Our work and advocacy are from the ground up," adds Marcus.
"We're all grass roots people, so we all believe you don't take the
structure from the top and then say, 'How does everybody fit in?'
The informal group is called "Domestic Violence: Different
Voices." Marcus and Tomkins said it is an extension of an
overlapping domestic violence advocacy network -- at UB, in the
Western New York community and at the national and international
"We're growing our program at the Law School to include not only
more U.S. lawyers, but also young attorneys from around the world
interested in violence-against-women-issues. We work with our
colleagues from other countries and share ideas. In that process,
our law students are exposed to issues and solutions from other
parts of the world," says Tomkins, who directs UB Law's Women,
Children and Social Justice Clinic.
"What we hope to accomplish eventually is to build a network
made up of attorneys in the public sector and in the
non-governmental organization sector who then use their knowledge
and skills in creating an effective response to domestic violence
in other parts of the world."
The list of related activities organized by UB Law School
professors include, but are not limited to:
* The Women, Children and Social Justice Clinic. Students work
in legal-service agencies, social service agencies, prosecutor or
legislative offices, and participate in a range of legal
counseling, advocacy and research to address the problems of family
violence. The clinic also serves as a resource throughout New York,
assisting communities in creating a coordinated response to
* The Domestic Violence Task Force, a volunteer organization
open to UB Law students. Among the task force's activities is an
annual spa day for residents and clients of Haven House, a shelter
for victims of domestic violence in Erie County.
* Development of a new eight-week certificate program for
international prosecutors. Participants will take UB courses on
domestic violence, as well as meet with local professionals dealing
with domestic-violence issues. Creation of the program follows the
year-long studies of Brazilian prosecutor Eduardo Machado, who came
to UB last year to study strategies to increase the effectiveness
of a recently adopted domestic-violence law in Brazil.
* Tomkins traveled to Brazil in February for a series of
presentations on domestic violence. An expected audience of several
hundred people grew to 2,000, including legal professionals,
law-enforcement officials, medical providers, law faculty, students
and people from the community. "The response was overwhelming,"
Tomkins says. "I went to the women's police stations, to the slums,
and met with people from the community. Everywhere I went, people
would be lined up to tell me their stories or ask me whether I was
aware of how many women who were victims of domestic violence were
killed in a particular area. It was clear to me that the country is
poised to create significant change in its response to domestic
* Marcus has lectured extensively at Eastern European
universities and has worked with non-governmental organizations in
that region. She established an International Visiting Scholar
award for a women's rights lawyer from the region, taking a salary
reduction to help pay for the scholar to study domestic-violence
issues at the UB Law School. The lawyer, Maia Jaliashvilia, 24,
from the former Soviet Union Republic of Georgia, was "absolutely
exceptional," Marcus says. Upon her return to Georgia, Jaliashvilia
began planning a Domestic Violence Clinic in a law faculty in her
country. It will be the first in Georgia and the first in the
Caucasus region. Shortly after her arrival, she was asked to assist
the prosecutor in representing a Peace Corps volunteer in Georgia
who alleged that she was raped.
"Rape and domestic violence are very subversive topics in
patriarchal societies like Georgia because they challenge the way
in which the state handles the most common forms of crime against
women -- by ignoring, dismissing or minimizing them," Marcus
This year, Marcus is asking her colleagues at UB to contribute
money to bring three women's-rights lawyers who work with
non-governmental organizations to UB's Law School as visiting
scholars. They are from Azerbaijan, Poland and Serbia.
"When you bring people together," says Marcus, "the vision
"We really don't let anything stop us," adds Tomkins. "This has
all been built by sheer determination."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.
Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law
School -- the State University of New York system's only law school
-- has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded
as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum
provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical
tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace,
wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis on
interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for
hands-on clinical education makes UB Law unique among the nation's
premier public law schools.