Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Dysfunctional Lawyer, Part 1

“The Cry of Justice” by Frank Varley
Auckland Punch Magazine (1868)

“‘Let us choose justice for ourselves…'” (Job 34: 4).

It takes great courage to flee an abusive relationship, and confront an abuser.

While criminal matters are generally handled through the District Attorney’s Office on the state level and the US Attorney’s Office on the federal level, abuse victims seeking divorce or money damages for their pain and suffering will need to pursue civil litigation.

Civil lawyers can be found who specialize in victims’ rights following rape, child abuse, domestic abuse, elder abuse, clergy abuse, and sexual harassment.

A good lawyer can help restore the abuse victim’s life. A dysfunctional lawyer (or a dysfunctional relationship with an otherwise good lawyer) can delay the process, undermining an abuse victim’s already tenuous confidence.

Abuse Victims as Clients

Abuse victims deserve a dedicated advocate: someone whose honesty is above reproach, who will be diligent in pursuing their case, who will communicate on all critical matters, and whose legal judgment can be relied upon as sound.

Fortunately, there are many lawyers meeting these criteria.

A. Cost

Cost is likely to be the first criteria abuse victims consider, in choosing a lawyer.

Personal injury litigation is usually taken on a contingency basis, for a percentage of the ultimate recovery. What that percentage can be differs somewhat from state to state. Thirty percent for the lawyer is typical.

The legal fees in other types of cases, for example divorce or bankruptcy, are usually calculated on an hourly basis. This can be a challenge for abuse victims, who may not have much in the way of funds.

Legal aid is available across the country, but the types of civil cases covered will vary. Abuse victims should check with their local offices.

Victims organizations like WomensLaw.org and RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) can be a good source of information. Most bar associations will, also, have referral services with lists of lawyers in various specialties. Often an initial consultation will be free or at a reduced rate.

B. Credentials

Thousands upon thousands of lawyers advertise, online and elsewhere. Whatever claims may be made in ads, victims should remember that lawyers are not superhuman, and that a verdict awarding money damages in their favor (particularly a large amount) is not guaranteed.

Since a lawyer can be instrumental in improving a client’s circumstances, the lawyer’s credentials should be carefully scrutinized, in the same way one might review the credentials of a physician.

Abuse victims will find lawyer ratings available online, but should not rely exclusively on these. Many fine lawyers are never rated. The recommendation of a friend can be as valuable.

C. Questions

For their own well-being, abuse victims should speak up. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Justice, Law, Violence Against Women

The Book of Job

For years, I was an atheist, unwilling to believe in or do homage to a God who would allow suffering by the innocent.

My view was a direct result of the abuse I had endured, and the suffering of all kinds I saw around me. I could not reconcile a good and just God with the many injustices in the world.  Faith was a fool’s game.

The Bible’s Book of Job, in particular, revealed the merciless nature of God. So I thought. A devout man is caused to lose his property, his children, and his health. All to demonstrate that his faith in God is not a response to good fortune alone.

I saw the God who would allow this as sadistic. I viewed the Book of Job as an obscenity, and rejected the propositions it put forward. For a long while, I preferred to rage.

When I found the law as a profession, it felt as if a sword had been placed into my hand.

But the Book of Job is a profound study in suffering. It makes the point that God is God. We are merely His creation, dearly though He loves us.

In the end, I came to recognize that we cannot substitute our sense of justice for God’s. We do not have His perspective. We cannot see the end from the beginning.

Christians do not always know why suffering takes place. Ours is a broken world, not the paradise we might wish.

Christians do, however, know the true character of God. He truly is holy, good, just, and merciful. He and only He is the God who suffered as we suffer, even dying for our sakes. Amid the severest of trials, He somehow sustains us. And we have His promise that He will use all things somehow for good.

That promise cannot be applied simplistically. No Christian would contend that good can come to a child from sexual molestation, torture, or neglect. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Venom

“…[The] poison [of the wicked] is like the poison of a serpent…” (Ps. 58: 4).

The toxin that venomous snakes inject into their victims can cause pain, tissue necrosis, respiratory paralysis, and kidney failure, ultimately resulting in death.

In an effort to shield loved ones from the abuse to which we were subjected, many of us swallowed the venom our abusers spewed.

Powerless, we submitted to their violation of us or neglect of our basic needs, and accepted their lies about us – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love, that we were responsible for their violation and neglect of us.

As children, we suffered in silence. Often, as adults, we maintain that silence, wrongly believing the details of our abuse too off-putting or too shameful to share with others.

But until it is spat out, that venom continues to wreak havoc with us. It causes incalculable pain, destroys hope, and interferes with our capacity to breath in cleansing truth, ultimately resulting in a kind of spiritual death. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

One In Every Five

  • Six young men, ages 16 to 18, were recently accused of the gang rape of a fellow high school student in Florida [1]. The sexual assault occurred after school. The underage victim was convinced to accompany her assailants into a wooded area. When the intentions of the group became clear, the victim attempted to leave, but was prevented. Some are publicly defending the assailants on Twitter.

There is a rape every 6.2 minutes in the United States; one in five women in this country is likely to be raped in her lifetime [2][3]. Because rape is under-reported, the figures may be higher. Eighty three year old women have been raped, as have four year olds.

The United States does not separately collect data on gang rapes. It is estimated, however, that 25% of all rapes are gang rapes [4]. These are almost always premeditated [6][7].

A 2013 report on rape and gang rape in the medical journal, The Lancet Global Health, listed entertainment, sexual entitlement, and punishment of the victim among the motives given [5]. Associated factors often include alcohol, poverty, “proof” of heterosexual prowess, a need for dominance over women, gang-related activity, and a history of child abuse. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Law, Religion, Violence Against Women