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July 4, 1951*Lebanon, New Hampshire

Lives in Vershire, Vermont

Truck Driver, 1979-1996

B.A., Vermont College, 1995

J.D., Vermont Law School, 1998

Founder, Have Justice--Will Travel



Wynona Ward keeps her eyes on the rutted dirt road as she drives through the undulating mountain valleys of central Vermont and into her past. She rounds a bend and there it is: Beanville. Just a cluster of trailers and weathered clapboard houses clinging to a hillside by a small stream, a few miles up the road from tiny West Fairlee. "See that?" Ward asks, chuckling, pointing to a hair-raisingly steep slope. "My brother and I used to sled down that on car hoods. The most dangerous thing you could imagine!"

Ward, a trucker turned lawyer, is heading north to counsel a battered woman who, after years of abuse, is seeking legal help. But on the way, she pauses to view the remains of the homestead where she, too, once quaked with fear.

"My father would come in from the outhouse, drunk, demanding to know why there wasn't any beer in the house, or anything other than venison stew to eat," recalls Ward, a stocky, energetic woman with an easy laugh and a stubborn refusal to feel sorry for herself. Her mother, Ward remembers, would stare into the pot she was stirring and mutter, "Because you haven't worked in three weeks." Enraged, Ward's father would throw his wife into the corner, stick his knee in her stomach and start choking her.

"They don't call it choking anymore; they call it strangulation," Ward says matter-of-factly. "She'd get in a few screams and all of us kids would come running." The children would try to pry their father's hands from their mother's throat, only to have his wrath vented on them: her brother was beaten, and the girls were sexually abused.

There was no phone and no one to call. The neighbors were within earshot, "but when they heard screaming coming from our house, they just turned their heads," Ward says. "And when we heard screaming coming from the neighbors, we turned our heads, too." Just three doors down, a man shot his wife to death in front of their children when Wynona was eight, and nobody thought much of it.

Even today, Vermont, known for its progressive politics and pristine environment, has a chillingly high rate of all-in-the-family brutality. More than 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends--over twice the national average. For women who live on the back roads, with unreliable cars, no telephones, and no money to hire attorneys, there's often nowhere to turn. Wynona Ward is determined to change that.

In 1998, after graduating from Vermont Law School, Ward won a grant to start "Have Justice--Will Travel," a law office on wheels. Today, in her four-wheel-drive Dodge Ram Charger, Ward visits battered women who are too isolated to get legal help and finds assistance for their abused children. The vehicle is outfitted with a CB radio, scanner, and cellular phone, as well as a computer and printer--all equipped with batteries, in the event a woman she is visiting has no electricity.

"Instead of making them come to an office with leather chairs, where they have to wait for an appointment to say, 'Here I am, shame on me, I just got beat up,' I come to them," says Ward, wearing casual black slacks and a houndstooth jacket. "I sit in their chairs, at their kitchen table, and listen to their stories.

"And even if it's not perfectly clean or the Trump mansion, I'm comfortable there," she says with a smile that lights up her open, friendly face. "I grew up in a poor household. They understand that. And if they don't, I tell them."

Today she's visiting Sandy (all names of Ward's clients have been changed), a 32-year-old administrative assistant and mother who recently divorced her husband after 12 years of abuse. Sandy is outwardly upbeat, funny, and sure of herself. The bruises on her face have faded, her fractured wrist has healed, and once-missing clumps of hair have grown back. But there's still a hairline fracture on Sandy's nose where her former husband broke it. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE>>>