By Nicole Israel
Nicole Israel is a 3L at New York Law School and the student editor of Student Lawyer .
This month, Diana Alvarado Chavez, a 3L at Gonzaga University School of Law, will receive her JD. She is determined to use her degree to help domestic violence victims reclaim their lives.
Chavez was raised in Mexico City before moving to Washington State as a grade-schooler. Growing up, Chavez realized she wanted to serve one the most vulnerable segments of the population—victims of domestic abuse.
“I wanted to help provide services for those who didn’t have access to legal representation,” Chavez said. “For me growing up as a Mexican-American, language was a barrier, there aren’t as many Latino attorneys. I just felt I had a connection with the [domestic abuse] work. I had found something that I was really passionate about and wanted to provide as much help as possible.”
Chavez grew up in a bilingual household and uses those skills to assist domestic violence victims. Chavez is a certified Spanish medical interpreter in Washington state. She started with an interest in the medical field during her undergraduate years, and enjoyed the idea of helping Spanish speakers in a medical setting without going to medical school. Later, she used those skills to interpret for legal clinics and volunteered with the YWCA of Tacoma-Pierce County in Washington.
“My work there as a legal advocate was to help assist victims in domestic violence to represent themselves.”
At the YWCA, Chavez helps domestic violence victims understand that domestic violence is where one partner in an intimate relationship tries to maintain power and control over the other person. The YWCA’s services are for victims and their children.
As an advocate, Chavez helps provide the tools for survivors to find empowerment and promote healthy relationships. She interprets legal jargon for victims, accompanies survivors to court proceedings, explains the legal process, and assists in preparing victim impact statements and applications for personal protection orders.
Chavez makes it a point to get as much hands on experience as possible to help be a better advocate for domestic violence survivors. She said the best exposure has been an internship as a 1L and an externship as a 2L at the YWCA legal department in Tacoma, Washington. Chavez has also made it a point to take a trial advocacy course for hands-on experience in trial work.
She said, “These two forms of experiences have not only helped me learn what needs and specific types of advocacy domestic violence survivors need, but have also helped me get the necessary exposure to the necessary research, writing, and litigation skills that I am going to need if I plan to enter the family law field to help this specific group of individuals.”
She continues her work in domestic abuse and said that the biggest hurdle was to help victims rise above their circumstances.
“The challenging thing was to get clients who were fresh out of abusive situations, who spent prior nights in the hospital, and helping them out of the relationship.”
But for every challenge comes a reward. For Chavez, the prize is helping clients succeed in leaving an abusive relationship and watch them thrive to become their own person.
“These clients started becoming their own person and leading a healthy lifestyle.”
Vol. 42 No. 9