In many instances, sexual assault survivors may not be in a place to take the first steps toward legal action on their own. They may not know where to start or who to contact. More importantly, they may not be in the emotional or psychological state to be thinking about these types of details and logistical matters. This is where a “survivor advocate” comes in.
The Pride Law Firm is proud to announce the latest addition to our team: the country’s first in-house survivor advocate at a civil law firm. Certified Survivor Advocate and Consultant Christy Heiskala has joined us to provide highly specialized services for sexual assault survivors.
Christy’s role as survivor advocate is twofold: First, she will be helping survivors and their families navigate the legal, reporting, and personal processes. She aims to make sure every person who calls the Pride Law Firm feels listened to, respected, believed, and supported.
Secondly, she will also work directly with our attorneys and staff to provide plaintiff support and resources, so we can better focus on building strong cases for our clients.
Together, we will be able to provide maximum attention and guidance for survivors, helping to ensure they ultimately get the justice and remedies they deserve.
What Is a Survivor Advocate? Why Work With One?
Survivor advocates or survivor advocates are professionals who are trained to support people who have been targeted in crimes, especially violent crimes or crimes of a sexual nature. They may offer survivors of sexual assault emotional support and may help them find resources and fill out paperwork in connection with their claims.
The crime of sexual assault can have egregious and devastating consequences on the survivor, and individual attention is needed to assist them through the legal process fully. Such guidance can come through the assistance of a survivor advocate.
They may also connect survivors with support organizations, crisis hotlines, legal resources, and support groups. Survivor Advocates are also called by other names or titles, including:
- Survivor advocates
- Victim service providers
- Victim/witness coordinators
- Victim/witness specialists
Working with a survivor advocate can be incredibly freeing and empowering, and can help a survivor embrace the process toward becoming whole again. Often, it’s the first steps that are the hardest to take. Relying on the direction of an advocate can help ensure the proper action is initiated to ensure recovery. This is all done in a context of absolute privacy, safety, and confidentiality.
Christy’s Journey to Becoming a Survivor Advocate
“Nobody can guide you up a mountain they themselves haven’t climbed.” – Rob Bell
In 2007, Christy’s daughter was molested by her third-grade teacher. This sent her on an eight-year journey through the justice system, which involved a criminal case, civil litigation, and appeals. The case resulted in a precedent-setting opinion in the California Court of Appeals.
After her first-hand experience with the legal system, Christy then became determined to make an impact to reduce sexual assault and child sexual abuse. She accomplishes this now through training and advocacy for victims and their families.
Having been through her own ordeals, Christy knows exactly what it’s like to feel alone and lost throughout the legal process for sexual assault cases. She understands the value of having someone who understands the situation from the same perspective and background.
What Does a Survivor Advocate Do?
Survivor advocates handle a broad range of tasks and services to benefit clients. A handful of the many services Christy will provide include:
- Assisting with client intake (receiving phone calls from survivors)
- Helping file police reports and restraining orders
- Attending investigator interviews with the survivor
- Connecting survivors to resources
- Helping obtain medical services and counseling for clients
- Overseeing in-house self-care activities for clients and law firm
- Creating self-care packages to be mailed to clients
- Organizing community outreaches
- Attending conferences and local events about sexual assault
- Compiling email newsletters with self-care client tips
- Performing daily client check-in messages
- Providing training (with Jessica) for other sexual assault law firms across the country
Christy’s Background and Achievements
Due to the highly sensitive nature of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment cases, survivor advocate requirements can be rigorous and demanding. Christy has undergone extensive survivor advocate and trauma-informed training, including a 66-hour training certification to be a sexual assault response team (SART) advocate from the Center for Community Solutions San Diego (CCS). She also completed a Victim Advocacy Certificate Course with the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVCTTAC), besides other training and education.
In addition to these survivor advocate certifications, Christy is an accomplished author, blogger, and presenter. She is continually expanding her learning through community engagement and volunteer work, which also helps to advance the growing movement to end sexual abuses and injustices.
Pride Law Firm: The First Law Firm to Have an In-House Survivor Advocate
We are proud to be the first sexual assault law firm to have an in-house survivor advocate. We want to be sure our clients are well-taken care of and receive access to the best, most professional services they can. These additional measures help us go the extra mile to provide genuine care for our clients’ well-being and recovery in difficult times.
Get in Touch With Us If You Need Guidance
Sexual assault survivors can experience feelings of isolation, confusion, and a loss of power. At the Pride Law Firm, we aim to return that power to survivors by providing them with resources and the support they need to heal and recover. That’s why we’ve welcomed the new survivor advocate addition to our team.
If you or a loved one of yours have been affected by sexual assault or abuse, get in touch with us today at (619) 516-8166. We will be on hand to listen to you and be with you on your path toward justice. You don’t need to be alone in this process, and we will do all we can to make sure you’re fully supported.