Pilot program gives free legal advice to domestic abuse victims

June 29, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:22 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Domestic abuse victims in the Peoria area now have a chance to get some free legal advice thanks to a pilot program launched by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.

The program currently utilizes the help of four licensed Illinois lawyers to provide one hour of legal consultation via Skype to abuse victims.

Lt. Gov. Simon says people often need legal questions answered about divorce, custody, and what to do with shared property.

"Having the strength of information, I think, leads to good legal decisions, but also more of a sense of an ability to speak up for yourself," said Simon.

The service is currently being offered in Peoria's Center for Prevention of abuse and a Crisis Center in Jacksonville.

Gina Zalazinski is one of the first victims to benefit from the free service. She said, "One of the hardest things about domestic abuse is you don't feel important and you don't feel empowered. And today I walked out of here a lot happier and a lot more empowered, and felt important."

Lt. Gov. Simon is working to recruit more lawyers and expand the program throughout Illinois.

She says the financially-strapped state does not provide funding for the program. The use of existing resources keeps the cost low. However, they have received some funding through the Illinois Bar
Foundation.

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