Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Law and Tragedy

So, for those of you who know me I am currently working for the Northwest Justice Project (NJP) as an intern.  NJP is a small non-profit law firm that works with clients who have little to no income.  They work on projects relating to housing, consumer law and licensing.  However, their biggest work comes in the fields of domestic violence and child abuse.  Naturally, that kind of work has weighed heavily on mind.

The topic I want to discuss for this entry has to do with resilience.  From the short time I have worked here, I have already seen an incredible amount of sadness and tragedy. NJP works with many low-income families and mainly deals with cases that involve domestic violence and child abuse.  One of my assignments is to sit on the Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) hearings.  Recently, there have been some startling decisions passed down by the commissioners and NJP is concerned.  So, they have decided to take a six month survey of all DVPO hearings to see exactly what is going on with these decisions.  I have been assigned to sit in on those hearings every Monday  and Thursday afternoon and take notes regarding each case that is heard.
While viewing these hearings I have heard and seen some truly shocking things that hopefully, most people have not had to experience for themselves.  Domestic violence is a concept that I believe is novel to many, but unfortunately, exists for some.  I think most people would associate their home with words like: comfortable, cozy, warm and relaxing.  Others might claim their home is a safe haven or a refuge from the troubling things of the world.  I think the question you have to ask yourself is, what would you do if you’re home was dangerous?  Where would you go?  How could you protect yourself when the thing you fear the most lives with you?  It all sounds so terrifying that for most people I think it would be hard to imagine.  Yet, every Monday afternoon I see these people who struggle with these sorts of problems on a daily basis.  Amidst such tragedy, I am left to wonder, how as a lawyer can you be surrounded by such tragedy and not be affected by it?

I wonder about the lawyers, the social workers and the judges that have to read into the lives of these victims of domestic violence and abuse.  Everything about it is depressing and I just don’t see how that wouldn’t gnaw at you after a while.  A wise person once told me, “Don’t bring your work home with you, it’ll just bring you down.”  But, I feel like those words of wisdom would be difficult to carry out in this occupation.  It just seems like every time you would come home and play with your child, or sit down to watch a movie with your wife or husband that in the back of your mind you would be thinking, “My client so and so is going through hell right now.  She can’t play with her child too rough because of the bruises or, she can’t cuddle with her husband because he beats her.”  I don’t see how you could avoid bringing your work home with you.  I feel like all of that sadness and heartache would weigh you down little by little, until, it becomes too heavy a burden to manage.
This entry sounds awfully depressing I am sure, but, it illustrates my fears of working in this type of environment.  Resilience would be an attribute that you would have to possess to work in a place like this day in and day out.  I don’t think this is the type of place that anybody could work at.  I am not saying this to deter anyone from working in a place like NJP because heaven knows we need all the attorneys we need to defend people such as our clientele.  I just marvel at the ability of the attorneys and judges I have seen that can weather the storm of heartache and sadness they see every day and still be able to smile.  I just hope, for their sakes, that those smiles are more than skin deep.


  1. A brother in our ward works with the children in those types of situations you're talking about and I have always wondered how he always seems so happy. I have no idea how they do it except I think that they have to ask the Lord for help. Good luck with your last year Bryan!