Ranking No. 6 in the nation for women killed by men, South Carolina’s domestic violence homicide rates are very high, according to the S.C. Domestic Violence Advisory Committee’s 2018 annual report.
Greenville attorney Shanise Greenfield provides legal aid to domestic violence victims and advocates for their rights throughout the often complicated court system.
“It’s just empowering to be able to fight for women because the majority of the victims are women,” Greenfield says. “I’m a feminist, and I believe that we need a voice.”
As Safe Harbor’s first legal program manager and staff attorney, Greenfield, who was hired last year, provides representation for clients who are not eligible for legal aid from S.C. Legal Services or the S.C. Victim Assistance Network.
“We never had a legal program before, so this is something very new,” Greenfield says. “I really pick up the cases that kind of fall through the cracks.”
Greenfield expects to spend most of her time in family court for custody, divorce, legal separation, child support, and orders of protection cases in Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson counties.
“Unfortunately, [clients’] abusers will use the system against them,” she says. “They will drag them through the courts for years if they can and bankrupt them.”
Through Safe Harbor’s legal program, clients receive free legal services. “They need somebody like myself, who is well-versed in domestic violence, specifically,” she says.
After graduating from Hofstra Law School in New York, Greenfield worked as the assistant district attorney in the domestic violence unit in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
“I just have a lot of hope for this program,” she says. While continuing to refer clients to other attorneys, Greenfield will take the remaining cases needing representation.
In the future, Greenfield hopes to partner with the Greenville County Bar Association and the S.C. Bar Association to create a pro bono program specifically for attorneys trained in domestic violence.
“I remain hopeful that we can get some more people to work together and fight for justice for these people and for victims in general,” she says.
As a wife and mother to her 4-year-old son, Greenfield says much of her time out of the office is spent with her family.
“Working here really makes you appreciate your family — just seeing what the victims go through and what their kids go through,” she says.