Jenn DeLongis, a 3L at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, was awarded the 2022 Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Pursuit of Justice” writing competition by the Philadelphia Bar Association. The award recognizes excellence in legal writing for students in Philadelphia-area law schools, on topics including rights, privileges and responsibilities under federal law.
DeLongis received the $2,500 first place award for her paper, titled “Corona-Violence: A Proposed Provision for a Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act in Response to the Challenges of COVID-19 to Improve Survivors’ Access to Justice.” Her essay also will be published in The Philadelphia Lawyer trade publication.
DeLongis’ essay calls for congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) when it comes up for renewal in 2027. She argues for VAWA’s re-authorization to include a provision that offers victims of intimate partner and sexual violence the opportunity to get an emergency protective order that lasts an indefinite amount of time, during national emergencies, including but not limited to the pandemic.
Since its passing in 1994, VAWA aims to create a national response to partner violence in domestic, dating and sexual situations, as well as stalking. A subsection of the act, STOP, allocates funding to services that address the main goal of the act.
“The solution I propose could simply be funded with funds already allocated into the STOP provision,” DeLongis said. “The funding for the emergency protective orders would be allocated in this program under the act, because it falls into the victims’ services and training category.”
DeLongis writes that reauthorizing VAWA with an emergency provision will help victims overcome obstacles to justice and their immediate safety, such as inconsistencies in partner violence laws and relief programs that vary from state to state.
“I knew that intimate partner violence had increased during shutdowns and quarantines just from being an active member on social media and watching the news during the peak of COVID,” DeLongis said of the inspiration behind her essay. “There was this sense that all of us felt trapped when we were in quarantine, but I couldn’t imagine what it was like for people in violent or abusive relationships.”
The paper defines intimate partner violence as a pattern of coercive and abusive behaviors used by a partner in a relationship to another partner. This includes physical violence, as well as threatening harm. Intimate partner violence extends to psychological manipulation, such as insults, public humiliation in front of other people, or the abuser threatening to harm themselves, as well as sexual and financial abuse.
Intimate partner violence affects men, trans and non-binary people. However, the paper argues that women bear the brunt of this abuse on a global scale. The World Health Organization estimates one in three women experience intimate partner violence or abuse worldwide.
Furthermore, Black women and women of color are disproportionately affected by intimate partner abuse.
DeLongis cites studies claiming Black women are more likely to experience violence and abuse from their partners. Structural racist societal structures, lack of generational wealth and economic opportunities, and a reluctance to interact with the police due to their ethnicity, all create barriers to safety for people of color.
DeLongis originally wrote her essay as a legal note during her first year with Drexel Law Review. She was paired with Assistant Professor of Law Elizabeth Kukura as a note advisor during the writing process, which included a year-long intensive of research, writing and revision.
Professor Kukura urged DeLongis to submit her paper for the RBG Pursuit of Justice competition, after she was impressed by its scope of knowledge.
“When I saw this year’s posting, I immediately thought of Jenn’s paper, because she was writing at the intersection of issues that were central to Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work and judicial decision-making, including sex equality and access to justice,” Kukura said.
Additionally, Kukura praised DeLongis for devoting extra time to revise her paper so it would meet competition specifications.
“She was successful at adopting changes that enabled her to communicate her main ideas to a new audience, which reflects a central part of the Drexel Kline Law curriculum: learning to communicate about the law effectively with different types of audiences,” Kukura said.
Recently, DeLongis spent a semester learning about the justice system at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, as a criminal litigation clinic student. Her view has also evolved on the ways to address intimate partner violence, she said.
“If I were to write it today, I would expand the provision to be more about access to services to survivors instead of specific access to protective orders, which aren’t always as effective as we might think or hope,” DeLongis said.
Currently, DeLongis studies at Drexel Kline Law with an interest in litigation and criminal law. She also is a member of the nationally ranked mock trial team.
Photo Credit: Jenson Samuel Photography