The aftermath of abuse can take years or even decades to process. For some abuse survivors and their families, those effects are amplified by the type of abuse endured. Physical and psychological repercussions are enough to handle. But in most cases, there are also legal actions you should — and may need to — pursue.
While hiring a lawyer might seem intimidating, it’s a crucial step toward achieving justice and empowerment. Whether it’s you or a loved one who’s an abuse survivor, exploring legal options can offer protection and remediation. In some ways, seeking legal assistance might be the most viable path forward. We’ll discuss how a lawyer can empower abuse survivors and provide guidance for complex scenarios.
1. Protect People in Harm’s Way
Imbalanced power dynamics in society and relationships can pave the way for abuse. Consequently, specific population segments are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of. These groups include aging individuals who can’t always fend for themselves. Those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are examples.
Elderly people in nursing homes depend on staff members for basic needs. While the level of dependence can vary, it means nursing home residents don’t have complete control of their lives. They may not have the capacity to manage all their finances or look after routine hygiene. Nursing home residents also rely on staff for meals and socialization.
When facilities fail to uphold care standards, elderly residents can endure neglect and abuse. Families who enlist the help of nursing home abuse lawyers stand a better chance of protecting their loved ones. Lawyers can identify what scenarios and circumstances qualify as mistreatment. They help advocate for the rights of aging individuals and the relatives who trust nursing homes to look after them. Legal teams may also be instrumental in stopping further abuse.
2. Advise Survivors on Next Steps
The effects of abuse can be both short- and long-term. Some of those impacts manifest as confusion, self-doubt, and feelings of powerlessness. Psychological consequences like these can make it difficult for victims to break off abusive relationships. Despite knowing their circumstances are dangerous, survivors may blame themselves or doubt their ability to size up the situation.
By providing legal advice, lawyers serve as an outside voice of reason. They can help restore survivors’ confidence in their assessments of situations. Legal teams’ guidance gives survivors the tools they need to end the cycle of abuse. For instance, domestic violence victims can get the assistance they need to leave their abusers safely. These resources could include temporary shelters, court orders, and ways to document evidence.
Lawyers show abuse survivors what legal actions they can take to preserve their rights. In domestic violence cases, advice could extend to child custody issues. Understandably, survivors may not want their children exposed to a parent who has abusive tendencies. Legal advice empowers domestic violence survivors to act in their children’s best interest, preventing them from enduring additional harm.
3. Present Legal Arguments
Going to court is sometimes the only way to seek justice, but presenting arguments before a judge, mediator, or arbitrator requires skill. Yes, there are cases throughout history where defendants and plaintiffs successfully represented themselves. But there’s a reason courtroom self-advocacy is rare, even when a plaintiff isn’t suffering the psychological effects of abuse. As the saying goes, “A [person] who is [their] own lawyer has a fool for a client.”
Simply put, presenting a solid argument based on case law and evidence is not something most survivors are capable of doing. A skilled lawyer knows how to present a winning argument and navigate any courtroom surprises. They can anticipate what the other side will present, including potential character witnesses and disputes over evidence.
Situations such as workplace bullying and abuse may also be challenging to address without legal help. An estimated 30% of the American labor force experiences bullying at work. Cases like these can easily become one person’s word against others’ and involve more than one party. Survivors could have a case against the organization and one or more perpetrators. Based on accumulated evidence and anticipated counterarguments, lawyers can properly advocate for justice.
4. Negotiate for Survivors’ Best Interests
For lawyers, negotiating outcomes and settlements comes with the job. It’s their responsibility to act according to their client’s interests. During the negotiation phase of a court case or other legal action, lawyers attempt to get the best possible outcome. While a client’s needs can vary, an abuse survivor may require — or simply deserve — a financial payout.
Say someone was forced to resign because of workplace bullying. Furthermore, the emotional toll of the mistreatment shook the survivor’s confidence and lowered their stress tolerance. The victim couldn’t hold the same type of job, thus suffering psychologically and financially. A lawyer can present these facts to negotiate a higher payout. Although a check doesn’t erase the psychological effects of the abuse, the survivor is compensated for lost income, both past and future.
Some settlements also include payments for treatment, pain, and suffering. Not all harassment and hostile work environment cases are severe enough to prevent someone from seeking employment again. Still, most survivors find it helpful to seek counseling and take time off to process what happened. A well-negotiated settlement protects the victim’s interests and gives them a bit of justice.
Acts of Justice
No one deserves to be mistreated, whether at work or home. However, social hierarchies, long-standing norms, and particular circumstances can increase the risk of abuse. Seeking justice and protection is an act of bravery, which legal professionals can make less daunting. Lawyers serve as survivors’ advocates, empowering them to make decisions that support their fundamental human rights and needs.