Who Is the Women’s Fund? (Bonus Episode Ft. Nick Zadina)

Apr 28, 2022

Who exactly is the Women’s Fund and why is this important for you to know? This bonus episode of the Lady Lawyer League podcast features a one-on-one conversation with Nick Zadina, the Freedom from Violence Project Coordinator at the Women’s Fund of Omaha. This group focuses on sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violent crimes against women. What are the policies and laws in place to help prevent attacks and support victims? How much does our community really know about these topics versus hearsay and misinformation? How can you help if you know someone who has fallen victim to one of these crimes?


Intro: Welcome to the Lady Lawyer League podcast. They are a league of lady lawyers in an all-female law firm in Omaha, Nebraska, called Hightower Reff Law. On this podcast, you’ll hear stories of what it’s like to be a lady lawyer and an entrepreneur. Now it’s time to talk about the law, share real-life stories about representing clients and discuss the current events of the week. It’s the Lady Lawyer League podcast with Susan Reff and Tracy Hightower-Henne. 

Susan: Welcome to a special bonus episode of the Lady Lawyer League podcast. And today we have Nick Medina from the Women’s Fund, and we’re going to learn about the Women’s Fund and about Nick. Welcome. 

Nick: Ha. Thank you for having me. Excited to be here. 

Susan: Nick, tell us about you and what you do at the Women’s Fund. 

Nick: Yeah. So I am the Freedom from violence coordinator at the Women’s Fund and it’s a program that works to end all gender based violence. So we really focus on sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, all of these crimes which tend to be crimes against women. And we’re working to address them in a number of ways. We really try to take a bird’s eye view on these and look at the policies, the laws, how are systems responding to these crimes in our community and work to make them better work to more effectively intervene when it happens and also try to prevent them from occurring in the first place. 

Susan: So that’s real easy work, right? 

Nick: Yeah, real easy. Right. Walk in the park. 

Susan: So I’m a member of the Women’s Fund Circles Group, so I love the Women’s Fund of Omaha. But tell us in the listeners about Women’s Fund in general and all of the things that they do. 

Nick: Yeah, so the Women’s Fund has been around for a while. We have four major areas of focus that we have at the Women’s Fund. So economic security, access to sexual education, sexual health care, women in leadership and the area that I work in, which is the freedom from violence area and in the freedom from violence area, we have a few different ways that we work with systems. So one thing that I do in my role is coordinate the Domestic Violence Community Response Team, which is a team of people that works on a systems level to intervene. So for example, police, county attorney’s victim, witness, all of these different agencies who are working when these things occur to intervene on them. We do the same thing with sexual assault. We also work with providers in our area who work directly with survivors on their well being, and we have a community of practice with them. We provide funding for some of these organizations and we reach out to them and create this community so that they can not only network and talk with other people who are doing similar work, but talk about the difficulties of doing this work and being in the trenches with this work so that some of the community of practice work that we do and we also have a whole policy department, we’re working with legislature and figuring out what laws or gaps there are in our laws for serving women and girls who are impacted by violence. 

Susan: And what are some of those gaps in the law that you’ve been working on some successes at the Women’s Fund has had, yeah. 

Nick: So this year has been an exciting year in our policy world. We had two bills that we pushed forward this year that went through there on to the governor’s desk right now. So and we believe they’re going to be signed and placed into law. So we’re excited about that. We had ll be 1246, which was a bill introduced by Senator Patty Brooks and a number of other senators signed on to this bill. And it had to do with Survivor anonymity. And what this bill did was so in the past, if somebody reported a sexual assault or sex trafficking, they would have to have an incident report that were made by the police. These incident reports are public record and in these incident reports, they had to put the names of the victims. And the reason this is problematic is because then the day after the incident occurs, these records are made available to the public. And the first thing that happens in the morning at the police department is that all the media all the media folks will go and get all the incident reports. So on occasion, what this would mean is that somebody the night before would report sexual assault or sex trafficking. It would get in the incident, report media, show up, get the incident reports, see the name of somebody who is a victim of this and then call them that morning. So the morning after they’re assaulted and go through all of this stuff and with the report, they’re getting a phone call the next day from the media. 

Susan: And I think when I’ve heard about this the first time through the Women’s Fund, I was shocked by that. And I even work in the legal community and and as a lawyer, I had no idea that the media gets these reports the next day and then is contacting a victim. And my immediate thought was that why would someone want to even report it then? 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. That’s definitely one of the biggest question that I’ve heard from survivors who have had this happen to them is I didn’t know it would be public in this way, and especially in cases where we have sex trafficking, a lot of times the worry is, is my trafficker going to get this information? And if it’s out there, they will have access. To it. So it definitely isn’t just a matter of the media. It’s a matter of all people will have access to these reports and records. So what 1246 does is takes all identifying information out of these incident reports so that when the incident reports are accessed, there will be no way to know who made the report. 

Susan: That’s amazing. 

Nick: It’s very, very important. And this was a bill that was supported pretty much across the board. Law enforcement testified on this bill. We had survivors testify on this bill. It’s I’m very excited that this one got for sure. 

Susan: Were you surprised that it got through? 

Nick: Yeah, because it’s hard to get something through, especially on a short session like this is a session that like session is ending this next week and it’s hard to get bills through when you have such a short timeline. Plus, it was a budget year, so there was lots of budget discussions at the Senate and that’s always going to be tough to get things through. And yeah. 

Susan: One of the things that you don’t know yet is we have a big listener community in Germany. Oh, we don’t know why, but we do. So we want to make sure our listeners know that Nebraska is a unicameral. Yes. Which also makes the process just different from other states and probably from. 

Nick: Germany for. 

Susan: Sure. Very different as well. So guten tag. 

Nick: Yes. So, yeah. 

Susan: Okay. So what other bills were passed this year? 

Nick: So the other exciting bill that we had passed this year was it started off as Elbe 1009, but then got amended onto Elbe 741. And it is a bill that is creating a domestic violence death review team, and this is a bill that we worked in conjunction with the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence on very closely. It came about in response to some domestic violence deaths in Nebraska. So Senator Tom Brandt introduced this bill and had a family with a loss in his community, lost a family member to domestic violence. And we talked about what can we do about this? How could this have potentially been prevented? And domestic violence, death review teams or domestic violence fatality review teams exist in 41 other states. Nebraska is one of only nine states that does not have this team. And what the domestic violence fatality review team will do is they will review all cases where there is a domestic violence death in Nebraska. They will look for consistencies gaps and this team will then make recommendations based on what they learn. And domestic violence. Death review teams in other states have implemented all sorts of ways to improve their system. So, for example, Montana, when they had their domestic violence death review team met, they found that with their protection orders, they were having trouble enforcing them from county to county. And Montana is very large. So what their domestic violence death review team did was created something called hope cards. And hope cards are wallet sized cards that people with protection orders can keep with them at all times that have a picture of the person they have the protection order against and all the information about the protection order. Wow. So if something happens and they have to call law enforcement, law enforcement shows up and they can say, here’s my hope card. Here’s all the information you need to know about this so you don’t have to go back and call 50 different places to find out if this is actually true. So easy. It’s so easy. But if nobody’s looking at it. 

Susan: Right. 

Nick: There’s nothing will do about it. And any any excuse you can have to get people together to talk about this stuff is going to make a difference. Absolutely. On the team is going to be people from the investigative world. There’s going to be people from vulnerable populations, Native American community specifically. We’re going to have people with lived experience on this team and they’re going to see how we can do better in Nebraska. 

Susan: So this seems to indicate that we’re going to do a lot of research when there is a death related to domestic violence. Are we doing the same amount of research when there’s not a death. 

Nick: And we have the same way? So the death ones are specifically pulled out because they’re so in Nebraska, there’s anywhere from 10 to 25 deaths of domestic violence every year, domestic violence incidents. I mean, we’re talking thousands and thousands of those per year. So this will be a very specific area that we are looking at, but it is an area where the stakes were incredibly high. And I’m hoping that anything that we learn from the domestic violence death review team will not just impact death cases. 

Susan: Good, good. Well, that’s exciting. Yeah. I want you to tell the listeners your background and how you got to this work, because this story is amazing, is. 

Nick: A total accident. So when I was in college, I started out as a journalism slash theater major. I found out that in order to be a journalist, you have to be kind of pushy. And I’m not pushy, so. So I decided that maybe just drama would be the way to go. And then when I got to the theater department, I felt like I really fit in there. So I got my undergraduate degree in theater. Then I took a year off and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. And I decided the only next logical step was to get a master’s degree in theater. 

Susan: Well, actually, you could have gone to law school because you can have any degree to go to law school, including mine. 

Nick: But. Yeah, I could have done that. But what I told my mother I was thinking about getting my master’s degree in theater. She’s like, You also need a job. I’m like, Oh, that’s true. So she’s like, Please get a job before before you go and get your master’s degree. So I ended up working for an organization called Respect. 

Susan: So this was probably the best advice your mom gave. It was. 

Nick: Yeah. It was for this direction. 

Susan: Yes. 

Nick: I am forever grateful for that advice. 

Susan: Thank you to Nick’s mom. 

Nick: Thank you. Kathy Zadina. 

Susan: Yeah. I appreciate you. 

Nick: So I found this organization called Respect that goes to schools and does plays about healthy relationships, bullying, peer pressure or dating violence, all of the above. I ended up working there for 12 years and it connected theater and this healthy relationship like area that I felt like I was so interested and invested in anyway and brought them together in a really cool way. I eventually wrote a play for the program as the artistic director that talked about there was a student in the play who was bullying other students at school, and you find out through the course of the play the reason he’s bullying other students is because he’s being abused physically at home by his father. And I didn’t know how to bring this up in schools. I knew that if I if we did this play, it was going to open a can of worms. So I started working with Project Harmony and they’re the Child Advocacy Center in Omaha work with all things related to child abuse. And I had gotten trained by them before as I’m working with Project Harmony, they they tell me. So we just built this theater space that we’re using to train professionals, and we’re looking to hire a trainer who knows how to use theater to educate people. Do you know anybody who could do that? And I’m like, Oh yeah, I know all sorts of people. I told none of them applied for the job myself and got it. Yes, and ended up at Project Harmony for nine years. As I was at Project Harmony, that’s where I got connected with Kristen McTaggart, who is now the executive director at the Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. But she had been working at the Women’s Fund and they had an open position and I’d always been so impressed with the work and so enjoyed working with Kristen that I applied and here I am today, working in this field and couldn’t be more grateful. 

Susan: Tell us what Project Harmony is to. 

Nick: Project Harmony is the Child Advocacy Center in Omaha, Nebraska. They work to. Intervene on child abuse investigations. So child abuse investigations, the way they used to be done before child advocacy centres existed, were not great because the kid would have to talk to so many different people about the abuse they went through so they would be interviewed by police. Then they would be interviewed by a nurse, then they would talk to whoever else. The lawyer, like all of these people were talking to these children about the abuse they went through. 

Susan: The people that aren’t trained in talking to children about abuse. 

Nick: Yeah, correct. And every time they’re interviewed, it’s heavily documented because everybody’s nervous about it. So then if this does end up going to court, the defense attorneys are subpoenaing all these interviews and then finding all the inconsistencies and that the kid said and building a case and saying this never happened. Look at all the different times the child told the story and how inconsistent they were. And so we also know what’s not great for kids mental health to have to retell these stories over and over and over again to strangers they do not know. So child advocacy centers work to streamline that process. And the way that they streamline the process is by providing help for people doing these investigations to provide interviews, interventions and trauma informed care for kids going through this process. So Project Harmony is one of the largest child advocacy centers in the country and sees thousands of kids every year and works with law enforcement and CPS very closely to provide the interventions these kids and families need. 

Susan: Awesome. Well, I want to say thank you for being willing to open that can of worms right. When you wrote that play. I think having kids learn and see all of that in front of them in in their schools is really important. So and thank you for joining us on the podcast. And for our listeners, we will have a episode with Nick and TJ Manning from the Nebraska Coalition about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. So join us on that. Thank you, Nick. 

Nick: Thank you. 

Outro: Thank you for listening to the Lady Lawyer League. Be sure to like and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would like to learn more about our firm, visit us at hrlawomaha.com. We’ll see you next week. 

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