UT professor honored for work with violence victimsWritten by Julie Ryan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the call for help came, Gabrielle Davis made a difference in the lives of dozens of domestic violence victims. In March, the Toledo native will receive the 25th Sister Ann Joachim Award from Siena Heights University in recognition of her work.
Davis began working as a UT law professor in 1996. Four years later, Phillip Closius, then dean of the UT College of Law, asked her to expand its clinical offerings for law students.
Davis, unsure of how to make improvements, attended “Take Back the Night,” an event that raises awareness of sexual assault and abuse, and found inspiration.
“I was very moved by the stories people told about the legal system in connection with domestic violence,” she said. “Those stories were mostly negative.
“It made me realize that people turn to the legal system for assistance for these very difficult times, and in many instances, the system wasn’t equipped to help.”
Nine years later, Davis has received national attention for her work with students in the courtroom on domestic violence cases. The Sister Ann Jaochim Award, however, is special to her as it comes from her alma mater.
“Sister Ann was a legendary professor at Siena Heights and she was a lawyer before she became an Adrian Dominican sister and she was also a bit of a pioneering woman,” said Jennifer Hamlin Church, associate vice president for advancement at Siena Heights. “She was the first woman religious to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The award that is given in her name is specifically given in recognition of contributions to the community, the kinds of contributions that show strong leadership, the ability to get things done and the ability to confront issues head on while showing values cherished at Siena Heights.”
Davis’s contributions began with the Domestic Violence Clinic she started at UT. She said the clinic began by asking people who work in domestic violence to identify the need.
Almost unanimously they said they needed help prosecuting domestic violence cases.
The core of the program happens in the classroom and the courts, she said. The students work with court advocates, police, health care providers, children services, adult protective services, Jobs & Family Services and social service providers.
Davis said domestic violence doesn’t end when the courts issues its verdict. The clinic helps the victims get their names changed, a Social Security number, child custody, housing and divorces — free of charge because they are a teaching clinic and a course designed to teach law students about the courtroom.
“I love it; this is the best job on earth. I like it because I am able to have the best of both worlds: I am a classroom teacher, but I also supervise students in real cases. I have a foot in both doors,” Davis said.
After noticing an increase in domestic violence fatalities, Davis started a domestic violence review team and, with a grant from the Department of Justice, spent 2007 doing research and issued a report, “Shattered Lives.”
Davis said the study found that 80 percent of the people killed were killed at or after the time they left.
“It’s not that they are going back for more; sometimes that’s the only way to stay alive,” Davis said.
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at UT College of Law Daniel Steinbock said Davis’ work has influenced developments in the field and trained students in the court of law.
“It’s made quite a difference, first of all in the lives of dozens of women and secondly she’s become a regional and national presence in the field,” Steinbock said.
“The bottom line for me is that we have to start figuring out ways to stop this violence before it starts. The legal system can only go so far. We only get cases after they’ve started,” Davis said.
Davis will receive the Sister Ann Joachim Award on March 19 during the Siena Heights Alumni Awards Day ceremony in Rueckert Auditorium in Dominican Hall at 4 p.m.