David Pisarra

Last week I made the trek out to the Sheraton Universal in Burbank to attend NEXUS XXIV. It’s a training conference that is put on by my friends at the Los Angeles Inter-Agency Child Abuse Network (ICAN). The executive director is Deanne Tilton Durfee and over the years we’ve become friendly. She, in fact, appeared in a short film I did for the Children’s Institute. I particularly enjoy this conference each year when I get to see my buddy Kenneth Rios who is one of the many diligent organizers on the Planning Committee.

The conference itself is a great learning experience because I meet the staff of multiple agencies and see how they interact. The speakers that are brought in are top-level individuals who teach on various aspects of domestic violence and childhood trauma — a topic that I, unfortunately, run into far too often as a divorce and child custody lawyer in Los Angeles.

The conference is a one-day event that is hosted by ICAN with support from the ICAN Associates, a private non-profit that makes the NEXUS training conference possible. The Associates is a celebrity-studded non-profit chaired by Lindsay Wagner. She is, of course, the perfect role model for those who stand up for children given that her career started as The Bionic Woman — Jamie Summers — who took on the forces of evil and won.

Each year I learn something that is valuable and enlightening to me, or I make connections with people who move my life forward. About seven years ago I met Alan-Michael Graves when he was representing the Children’s Institute’s Project Fatherhood and we forged a friendship. He hosted an annual Father’s Day event where a couple of years back I heard Jerry Tello share his story of childhood experiences. This year at NEXUS I was blessed to hear Jerry again but with a different message, one that rang true to the room full of social workers and mental health professionals — “they are all our children.”

The NEXUS Training Conference brings in speakers from far and wide, and also just down the block. The keynote was Dr. Randell Alexander who spoke on the topic of prevention of physical abuse. He came from Florida where he is a professor at the University of Florida. I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Dr. Michael Levittan speak on the long term effects of violence on children and how it impacts their brains and emotional development. I learned something crucial from him this year. Frequently we think that young children won’t recall violence in the household, as if that somehow makes it okay, what Michael was teaching was that it actually is worse for pre-verbal children as they have no language to unpack their feelings or understand the real dynamics. The younger a child is, the more damaging domestic violence is to them, which made total sense as soon as he explained it. He works here in Brentwood and is a well-known expert on anger management.

Walking the hallway I came across the Victim’s Compensation table that was being run by Shari Farmer from the Los Angeles District Attorney Bureau of Victim Services. I very jauntily said to her, “I know the Victim’s Compensation Board (VCB), I made a lot of money with them in my early years as a lawyer.” That triggered a conversation with Shari about what the board will cover and how it has expanded its mandate over the past few years. Fifteen years ago when I was doing work with the VCB, they only provided funds for those victims who had been criminally attacked and were cooperating with the police.

I understand from Shari that in the expansion of recognition of domestic violence, the VCB has had its mission expanded to cover those victims of domestic violence who need help with payment for their damages, treatment and related services. I did not know this. It means that those people who have a domestic violence restraining order and been granted protections are now eligible for additional funds to provide for their losses or mental health treatment. This is good news for those victims that have lost everything in an abusive relationship.

NEXUS is important to our community because it allows for the sharing of information and creation of connections that will aid those in need. Social workers and the men and women of the Department of Mental Health, Department of Children and Family Services, the Sheriff’s Department, and the District Attorney’s Victim Services and many other agencies benefit from the hard work of the Planning Committee and I want to thank them here, Sabina Alvarez, Edie Schulman, Susana Montanez, Tom Fraser, John Solano, Karla Latin, Jeremy Huang, Paul Click and Kenneth Rios, your hard work is appreciated and you deserved to be recognized for it. Thank you.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.  He welcomes your questions and comments.  He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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1 Comment

  1. Anyone interested in reducing violence, including domestic, gun, and workplace, should watch One Punch Homicide. It’s getting great reviews and can be seen free online.

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