ORLANDO — An Orlando attorney specializing in helping people who are unsure of who to turn to for legal help has created an education and resource center on his website for victims of domestic violence.
Joe Knape, owner of the 850-Call-Joe Law Firm, told the Florida Record that the national conversation October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men are victims of a form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. In Florida, 108,030 domestic violence incidents were reported to police in 2013 — even more weren’t reported.
Knape said domestic violence has been a constant topic on the news, affecting everyone including celebrities. In conversations with friends and family who work as counselors, he’s begun to get a glimpse of the stress and pressure victims experience. Meanwhile, he’s defended individuals accused of committing domestic violence. While he believes those individuals deserve his efforts, as well, his attention has turned to the victims of those individuals’ alleged violence, even if it means losing out on a steady revenue stream.
“A lot of people that are on the Internet looking for attorneys are looking for someone to defend them on a criminal charge. That’s how you get money. It’s not about money for me right now — it’s about helping people,” Knape told the Florida Record. “I don't want to be an attorney for the defendants anymore. I don’t want to be the person who stands next to them. I feel more aligned with the victims."
Knape founded his firm almost five years ago on the premise of providing one-on-one legal services to "the average Joe" in a range of practice areas, including criminal defense, family law, personal injury, real estate and business law. He offers free consultations and tells clients he’ll be the one personally handling their cases and taking their calls — not office support staff or paralegals. Knape said that kind of service would be well-suited for domestic violence victims who may struggle to be heard.
“I feel like, in the grand scheme of things, the victims of domestic violence are underrepresented,” Knape said.
As a legal resource, Knape would like to help victims of domestic violence understand their role in the case, as well as assist them in divorce proceedings, custody of children or any other additional legal matters they may encounter. He said he’s not an expert, but he wants to help and he sees his law practice as a potential avenue to get involved.
“I don’t think anyone should be living with violence in their life,” he said.