Reflections on a Career Spent Advocating for Childhood Abuse Survivors

UNITED STATES (law firm blog)

August 30, 2020

By Joseph H. Saunders

Recently a confluence of events has led me to reflect upon a significant area of my work as a lawyer. For the last two decades, I have represented and advocated for survivors of childhood sexual abuse-whether they survived abuse from a Catholic priest, minister, rabbi, or Boy Scout leader. It is difficult work not only because many states still have antiquated statutes of limitations that frustrate a survivors’ quest for justice but also because of the tremendous suffering I’ve witnessed in those two decades.

The sexual abuse of a child leaves emotional and psychological scars that can last a lifetime. I believe it forever alters the way in which a survivor interacts with the world and with others. Many survivors turn to alcohol and drugs to mask the pain and suffering. Others have been alienated from family and significant others well into adulthood. Sadly, a small number become abusers themselves. This is not a common occurrence but it happens and inevitably leads to further alienation from friends, family, and society in general. Even some attorneys refuse to represent those who themselves have abused others. It is not an easy issue but I believe mercy and compassion should trump any feelings of moral superiority on my part. The simple fact is that we are all broken. Some are more broken than others but each person deserves our understanding and assistance when we can provide it.

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