Why I Became a Sexual Abuse Lawyer
CONTENT WARNING: This blog discusses some of the most sensitive topics in our society today, including sexual assault and abuse. We understand that these realities may be difficult for many people to discuss. We encourage you to care for your safety and well-being. If you ever feel unsafe, please call 911.
When you were a child, someone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” What did you answer? There are many jobs out there, but kids will often mention a few favourites: a doctor, a construction worker, a veterinarian, a firefighter, a paleontologist, an astronaut, a movie star…
Becoming a sexual abuse or sexual assault lawyer is not always at the top of the list, but some children passionate about right and wrong and helping people who have been hurt may choose this option. However, no child has likely ever said they want to be a sexual abuse or sexual assault lawyer. No child should ever have to think about such horrific crimes. Unfortunately, some of these same children will be adult survivors and already have experienced these traumatic events.
I did not decide to become a sexual abuse and sexual assault lawyer until I was already out of law school. At the time, focusing a civil sexual abuse law practice on these matters was not commonplace. So, what helped lead me to where I am today?
In this fourth and final blog post in our series on “The Faces of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault,” I explain what (and more specifically who) inspired me to begin my practice and what my colleagues and I do to ensure our clients look back on their time with us knowing they were treated with the compassion, dignity, respect and kindness they so deserve.
A time to live
As a new lawyer, only recently called to the bar, I was having lunch with a colleague, and she mentioned that she needed to find someone who would take over a sexual abuse case she had. My colleague was having difficulty with her own emotions involving the case. I volunteered to meet with the client to see if I could help. Little did I know that that meeting would change the course of my practice and my life.
Not long after, I met with the client, and it was undeniable that her trauma as a child had made her life unbearably difficult. She had been institutionalized and was dealing with many addictions. Like many other survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault, her addictions were a way to numb the pain.
When I first met with her, she had great difficulty saying anything clear or made much sense because she had used a substance, knowing she was about to talk about her abuse.
But she said one thing that was as clear as could be: “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
At that moment, I knew what work I would be doing for the rest of my life.
It’s become standard to use “survivors” for people who have experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual assault. To speak of them as “victims” suggests they are defined by what happened to them instead of their strength in overcoming it.
Yet what my client said is painfully true. Simply surviving after sexual violence is not enough; recovering from this trauma to a point where you can live your life again is what you deserve. Knowing that my colleagues and I can help you as you achieve this goal is what drives us to work so tirelessly for you.
As lawyers who focus on sexual abuse and sexual assault cases, we have developed our practice in a way that creates an affirming environment for our clients and is deeply sensitive to their needs.
In the second blog post in this series, “ Common Fears of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Survivors,” I explained how much courage it takes for a prospective client to make that first call to us. That’s why one of the first people you are likely to speak with is our in-take specialist, who has a background in social work. Regardless of what the caller decides to do or whether the case is actionable through our office, our in-take specialist offers help to connect the caller to resources to help them with various aspects of their path to recovery and healing.
Survivors who opt to work with us are connected with one of the client liaisons at Gluckstein. This role distinguishes us from other personal injury firms. It’s an acknowledgement that clients benefit from a single point of contact as they go through the various steps in a lawsuit. Our client liaisons, some of whom have had their own personal injury cases, can anticipate many questions or concerns. They are also there to do regular check-ins if clients want or need them, even at points in the process when there might not be much new to report or to do.
When speaking about such traumatic and triggering subjects as sexual violence, it’s essential to do these check-ins so we can ask, “Are you okay now?” When survivors put their confidence in us, we demonstrate that it’s well-placed by ensuring they know we are always sensitive to their well-being and safety.
Here to help in any way, we can
Our commitment to full-circle client care means we are here for our clients even after their case concludes. For some, even if their case does not begin.
There are some instances where a prospective client may not have an actionable case for various reasons. When I learn that our in-take team has spoken to someone who does not have a case we can act on, for whatever reason, I will follow up with them personally to talk to them and thank them for speaking with us. I reiterate that even if we can not launch a lawsuit on their behalf, we will gladly do anything to support them on their journey to healing.
We are more than lawyers – we are humans. We care about what happens to you, whether you are our client or not.
Sexual abuse lawyers
Sexual assault is ultimately about control. What keeps me going in the face of hearing the terrible things that have happened to people is the satisfaction I get in helping them take back control.
If you or someone you love has been sexually abused and don’t know where to turn for help, please contact Gluckstein, and we will be here to listen.
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