Then the woman, 4 months pregnant, passed out.
She was taken to a hospital and treated for dehydration. That night, the two searched for a safe place for the woman and her baby to stay. And Chadwick found a new calling.
Chadwick, 29, is completing two years as a fellow at the D.C. office of Equal Justice Works, which connects current and recent law school students with public-service initiatives. Now in its 25th year, the organization provides fellows with the opportunity to help underserved populations deal with issues related to domestic violence, homelessness, community economic development, civil rights, juvenile justice and health care.
“We look for people who have the right experiences,” said David Stern, Equal Justice’s executive director. “You’re just doing staff attorney work? We’re not interested in that. . . . Are you doing something that’s innovative and capable of replication? Yeah, we’re interested in that.”
Depending on the number of sponsors that sign on, between 40 and 45 people are selected each year for salaried two-year fellowships. They design a project that matches the specific needs in a community.
“They have to be passionate about a cause,” Stern said. “They get the bug, they want to do it again. It’s really very powerful to help someone that is in a life-threatening situation and be able to use your legal skills to get them some protection.”
The woman Chadwick helped in 2007 eventually went back to her husband. She couldn’t afford to leave.
A legacy to take action
Through Equal Justice, Chadwick has been able to pursue her interest in employment justice, migrant issues and working with women who have been victims of violence. She created a project with the D.C.-based Women Empowered Against Violence to empower domestic-violence victims to move beyond dependency.
Since September 2009, Chadwick has represented women in 34 legal cases, including a woman from South America who after moving to the D.C. area found that her new husband was someone mysterious, distant and with strange habits. He hid recording devices throughout their home and threatened her with deportation should she try to leave him. He never physically injured her, said the woman, who is not being named because she is a victim of domestic violence.
But the woman spoke no English at the time and was left alone at home for months and without money. “Everybody could say he’s a good person, but I can’t,” she said.
When her husband got drunk one December night, just six months after she had arrived, she put a jacket on over her pajamas and ran. After she got an order of protection, she met Chadwick.