Impact Story: Alipato Project

When Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas started the Alipato Project in 2012 to represent domestic violence survivors, there was no blueprint for her to follow. She was creating a nonprofit to represent domestic violence survivors in civil court and seek financial retribution for her clients. Conventionally, domestic violence survivors are advised to pursue criminal charges against their batterers for a variety of reasons, including the fact that civil cases for domestic violence are usually time-intensive and less profitable for attorneys.  

Tia Katrina Taruc CanlasTia Katrina Taruc Canlas

Tia shared that she had moments of uncertainty when starting the first and only nonprofit in California to pursue tort actions against batterers, but she didn’t have much time to feel hesitant.  

“I wanted to raise funds and do a bunch of research before taking on clients but [a law school professor] referred a DV survivor to me three days before her statute of limitations was about to run out--- her case was so compelling that I believed we had to take it, even though we didn't have funds as an organization to pay me for my work,” Tia said.  

Because the Alipato Project's Domestic Violence Tort Program is one-of-a-kind, Tia had trouble getting 501c3 status for her nonprofit. She came to our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe with IRS forms in hand.

“The IRS didn't understand how our work was contributing to the public good. So it took a really long time to figure out how we could achieve 501c3 status. The Sustainable Economies Law Center helped us fill out our IRS forms at one of their legal cafes and answered the follow-up questions I had, and we obtained 501c3 status in 2015, almost three years after I founded the Alipato Project!

Resilient Communities Legal CafeResilient Communities Legal Cafe at Mandela Foods Cooperative

Since taking on her first client, Tia has recruited dozens of volunteer attorneys to represent clients and do research, and the nonprofit has obtained a total of $375,000 for domestic violence clients. They’ve also launched a weekly legal clinic to provide free legal advice and referrals for domestic violence survivors.

We’re proud that our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe played a part in bringing this innovative project to life. Tia is one of more than 700 clients that our legal cafe has served in the last 4 years, and we need your help in making sure that we can continue to provide legal support to changemakers like Tia.

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