We are pleased to announce that Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) Deputy Director Laura Graham has received the 2023 Vision of Peace Award from the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in recognition of her outstanding leadership and commitment to preventing and ending domestic violence in Delaware.
Laura has dedicated her entire legal career to assisting survivors of domestic violence, and she has been a statewide leader working for systemic changes to enhance survivor safety. Her skill, passion, and commitment to obtaining justice for survivors are a constant inspiration to all of her CLASI colleagues and to so many others in the wider legal and advocacy community.
Laura has been an attorney at CLASI for the past 17 years, representing clients across Delaware in domestic violence-related cases. She oversees our Domestic Violence, Immigration, and Medical-Legal Partnership practices, which assist DV survivors to help them break the cycle of violence, power, and control to achieve safety and independence. Laura supervises attorneys representing survivors in family law matters such as Petitions for Protection from Abuse, and in related divorce, custody/visitation, property division, and support cases.
She also represents immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, violent crime, or child abuse in petitioning for immigration relief on Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petitions, U Visa Petitions, Special Immigrant Juvenile Petitions, or T Visa Petitions in administrative hearings and in removal proceedings. She presents community education clinics and trainings for service providers, including state agencies, law enforcement, counselors, and educators. Laura also actively engages in legislative advocacy on issues impacting domestic violence survivors, immigrants, and low-income people, ensuring that their needs and interests are considered fully.
In addition to her work at CLASI, Laura is a respected leader in the legal and domestic violence advocacy communities. She is currently Vice Chair of the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC), chairs the DVCC Immigration Committee, the DVCC Family Justice Center Steering Committee, and is also part of the Delaware Victims’ Rights Task Force. She has devoted a great deal of time to leading efforts to bring the Family Justice Center model to Delaware, which would create one centralized location to provide coordinated services to survivors of family violence, in a multi-disciplinary approach that is family-friendly, victim-centered, and trauma-informed.
Laura’s colleagues from the Delaware domestic violence advocacy community and CLASI are grateful for her exceptional dedication to her work and to her colleagues, and we are thrilled to see her recognized with this well-deserved honor:
“There is no one more deserving of the Vision of Peace Award than Laura Graham,” says Delaware State Representative Krista Griffith. “For the past several years I’ve had the honor of witnessing Laura’s steadfast commitment to the most vulnerable in Delaware, including victims of domestic violence and the immigrant community. Laura never gives up and is tireless about ensuring these individuals are valued, protected, and lifted up despite enormous obstacles.” Rep. Griffith continues: “From chairing the Family Justice Center Steering Committee to serving as a leader on the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Laura is creative, smart, and conscientious about advocating for initiatives that benefit Delawareans. I’ve had the privilege of receiving Laura’s guidance on a number of legislative initiatives, most notably my work to provide medical insurance coverage to children who are undocumented. I’m excited for Laura to receive this award, and am even more enthused because I know that Laura will continue to be a shining example to others because of her sustained commitment and leadership in the effort to end domestic violence and lift up the most vulnerable in the First State.”
Angela DiNunzio Seguin, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC), states: “As Executive Director of DVCC, I have had a front row seat to Laura’s incredible dedication, attention to detail, and hours upon hours of time spent above and beyond her primary job to improve the lives of intimate partner violence survivors in Delaware. Laura has been the heart and soul of the Family Justice Center project, continuing to push forward, encouraging all community partners and state agency partners to be engaged as we discuss and tackle challenging topics and make difficult decisions along the way. I am incredibly grateful for the privilege of working with Laura and I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive this award.”
Libby Neuner, Family Justice Center Project Coordinator with the DVCC, adds: “I have had the good fortune to work with Laura since last September and I continue to be amazed at her enormous and unwavering commitment to the Family Justice Center development. She has been a fantastic leader and guiding light for all of us working on this project. In addition to her leadership skills, she also dives into the details and is happy to roll up her sleeves and get the work done! We are very lucky to have Laura at the helm, tirelessly driving the Family Justice Center project forward. Thank you, Laura.”
Here at CLASI, our Executive Director Dan Atkins observes: “Laura is a force of nature! No one works harder than Laura, and survivors of domestic violence in Delaware are the better because of it. Laura is a role model for others aspiring to do social justice work—she has sustained a commitment over two decades to supporting people with low incomes and people who have experienced domestic violence, at a pace and with energy that few people could match. She inspires me and everyone she works closely with to work as hard as we can to right the wrongs that remain, and we are so fortunate to have her with us in Delaware leading us towards justice and peace.”
Laura’s colleague and CLASI DOJ Accredited Representative Jane Curschmann says: “I have known Laura for 16 years, dating back to when she was a CLASI staff attorney and I was working with the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program in the New Castle County Courthouse. From the first, it was obvious that Laura was an exceptionally dedicated advocate for immigrant domestic violence survivors, many of whom spoke little to no English and as a result faced substantial obstacles to accessing the courts and legal services. They couldn’t have had a better lawyer to represent them. In fact, Laura was the reason I came to work at CLASI. Once Laura and I began to work together, it became even more clear how devoted Laura was to helping domestic violence survivors and how deep her knowledge is. While it is Laura’s heart which is at the forefront of her tireless advocacy for domestic violence survivors, it is her steel trap of a mind which makes her one of the most effective advocates for victims of domestic violence that I have ever known.”
“It has been a great pleasure for me to work with Laura and learn from her over the past ten-plus years,” says CLASI Supervising Attorney Megan Mahle. “Laura’s dedication to her survivor clients guarantees that her clients receive the highest quality advocacy. She often achieves positive outcomes that did not seem possible until her involvement. She is tireless in her work and advocacy and inspires all of us around her to improve our work on behalf of survivors. Laura also mentors new attorneys and advocates, teaching them to represent survivors in a variety of forums and inspiring a new generation to use their talents and skills to continue the work to which she has dedicated her career.”
Congratulations to Laura and to the other 2023 DCADV Purple Ribbon Award winners, Bethsaida Acosta de Caba of the Latin American Community Center and Joe Verdi of Around the Clock Locksmith!