Taylor Flagg, 603 Legal Aid DOVE Project Coordinator

603 Legal Aid DOVE Project Coordinator Taylor Flagg visited Jeff Odland of Wadleigh Starr and Peters to celebrate his status as the 100th reconfirmed DOVE volunteer

Share with us your education and career path and what ultimately led you to 603 Legal Aid and the DOVE Project?

I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in History and Justice Studies in 2016 and my Master’s Degree in 2017, both from the University of New Hampshire. I was then recruited into a PhD Program with UNH’s Sociology Department. After completing a couple semesters, I left the PhD program to work at UNH’s Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC). I assisted in the development of the uSafeUS® app, a campus sexual assault and response app available across all New Hampshire colleges and universities. My favorite part of this role was interacting with college students across the state, educating them on healthy relationships and resources available for domestic and sexual violence and stalking.

After PIRC, I accepted a position as a Victim/Witness Advocate at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office (North) in Manchester. I worked with victims of felony level crimes, assisting them through the Court process and ensuring that their rights were being met under the NH Victim Bill of Rights. From there, I became a Social Work Case Manager for Amoskeag Health, a federally qualified health center in Manchester. It quickly became clear to me that my passion for advocacy never truly left. I was familiar with DOVE through my experience working in this field and knew it was a highly regarded program. I thought I was made for this role but had a lot of self-doubt – I decided to apply and well, here I am!

What are some of your highest priorities and goals for the DOVE Project?

The DOVE Project’s highest priorities are serving our clients, crisis center advocates, and our pro bono volunteers. DOVE relies on the assistance of all 12 crisis centers across New Hampshire and volunteer attorneys all over the state, working hard to try to and provide all our clients with in-person legal representation at their final protective order hearing.

However, my goals for the project go beyond connecting a client to an attorney. My Assistant DOVE Coordinator Maggie Florino and I encourage advocates to contact us at any time if they have any questions or concerns, to see us as a resource. By developing these relationships and providing advocates with ongoing training and technical assistance, we have seen a tremendous improvement in the quality of the applications we receive and how much this has improved our clients’ overall experience with DOVE.

We have also increased recruitment efforts for volunteer attorneys, and I am happy to report we now have 100 active DOVE volunteers across the state! But we are not stopping there. Over the last several months, we have onboarded at least a dozen new attorneys. We have worked hard to not only develop close relationships with our attorneys but to provide them with the training and technical assistance they need to provide trauma-informed legal services to our clients.

Do you see some types of cases more often than others? What does your work with the DOVE Project look like day to day? 

DOVE accepts both domestic violence and stalking protective order cases, but we typically see more domestic violence cases. Although every case we have seen is unique, we have yet to see a survivor come to us with one singular incident of violence. There are co-occurring incidents of physical violence, stalking, emotional abuse, cruelty to animals, etc. In addition, many victims/survivors experience strangulation, which is a pre-cursor to intimate partner homicide. The DOVE Project has also seen an increase in the number of survivors who are experiencing financial abuse. While financial abuse is not a qualifying type of abuse under NH law, it makes it incredibly difficult for the client to safely leave their abuser and support themselves and their children.

Each day is different, which is one of the reasons I love my job! My day could involve processing and reviewing new cases, calling with clients, advocates, and volunteer attorneys. I could also be working on programmatic initiatives, such as developing a new training program or educational materials. I also spend time towards professional development, such as reviewing new case law, reviewing protocols and best practices, and participating in trainings.

Given the difficult nature of the types of cases you interact with, what do victories look like in this line of work?

Victory to me is that our clients can access trauma-informed legal services and feel empowered to make a decision that is best for them. Sadly, obtaining a protective order is not the end of the line for our clients. Healing from trauma takes a significant amount of time, and survivors face numerous barriers into escaping intimate partner violence. It’s also important to know that a survivor’s own “victory” or “win” is very different from person to person. We cannot tell them what the right path is, but only educate them in their options and empower them to make a decision that will work best for them.

How can supporters uplift you and this cause?

It’s incredibly important that we all educate ourselves on what intimate partner violence is and how it affects not only individuals but our community as a whole. Research tells us that the response of the first person a survivor discloses to dramatically impacts that survivor’s ability to seek services and escape the abuse they are experiencing. Educate yourself on resources in your community so you can appropriately support the ones you love or seek the safety you deserve. If you have a passion for this line of work, please consider joining the social services field if you are not already in this type of role. Many non-profit organizations and social service agencies are looking for dedicated advocates to help improve the community you live in. If this is not something you are able to do, consider volunteering with your local crisis center agency. To find your local crisis center, please visit www.nhcadsv.org.

If you are a private attorney licensed in New Hampshire, please consider volunteering for DOVE. In 2023, only 14% of domestic violence plaintiffs and only 6% of stalking plaintiffs were represented by counsel. As an attorney, you have the power and privilege to help us reverse this trend. To volunteer, you can email us at dove@603legalaid.org, or visit our website at 603legalaid.org.

Also, please consider donating to the Campaign for Legal Services to support our work!