Texas Legal Services Center provides free attorney representation, legal advice and information to assist individuals who qualify (based on income or other criteria) find other legal, medical or public services. A legal help department the center, Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault (LASSA), has a statewide hotline staffed by attorneys who can provide sexual assault survivors with  information and advice about legal issues that may arise following a sexual assault. Survivors are also  provided with referrals to one of eight network partners.

After a sexual assault survivor contacts the statewide hotline, survivors  go through an intake process with a hotline attorney. The attorney then provides legal advice, information and/or referral to a network partner based on this intake. Survivors  then contact the network partner and go through another intake process to determine follow up legal and resource assistance.

Currently there is no mechanism in place that allows information to be shared between network partners, nor is there an opportunity to assess/evaluate services.  Additionally, the hotline and each of the network partners have different intakes, procedures and eligibility.

This project has two purposes. The first goal is to conduct a program-based evaluation on the strengths and weaknesses in a systematic manner. Second, the project aims to understand the survivors’ experience and impact utilizing these resources.

Researchers from the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) will interview hotline attorneys and staff from each of the network providers, gathering information about the process, intake, referrals and follow-up services. Ten to fifteen who have used the hotline and follow-up referrals will be interviewed regarding their experience utilizing services. Researchers will summarize information and make recommendations. IDVSA will plan and facilitate a two-day strategic planning session. Each network provider will send a primary contact person and an attorney with decision making authority to the strategic planning meeting. Following the strategic planning meeting, there will be two quarterly meetings held to discuss impact of recommendations/changes and to refine service provision.

The information gained by this research project can be utilized by the Texas Legal Services Center and its network providers to improve services currently provided to survivors and better respond to survivor emergency needs.