For twenty years I was a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney handling first degree felony cases and complex litigation in south and central Florida. I taught racketeering, gangs, drug trafficking and conspiracy to law enforcement all over the United States. I worked with and fought on behalf of victims my entire career and knew of the Victim Service Center as a resource for those traumatized by violent crime and sexual assault.
In 2018, I decided that for too long I had encountered mental illness and coping mechanisms that led to criminal behavior based on unresolved trauma in the criminal justice system, and that as an attorney I could not help in the way I believe I am now called to help. I stepped away from active criminal trial work and began volunteering as an attorney Guardian Ad Litem in the dependency system representing children who have been removed from the home due to abuse or neglect. My cases take place right across the street from the VSC.
So many people in the dependency/foster care system do not realize the trauma and chaos all people involved endure. No parent wants to hurt their child or lose their children. No person wants to be so lost in their own unprocessed pain that they cannot care for themselves or their children. And yet the system is often a revolving door of heartbreak.
Thus, in 2019, I applied for and was accepted into the Masters program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Rollins College. Amazingly I ended up interning in my first semester at the Victim Service Center of Central Florida. I was able to share compassion and empowerment with survivors of terrible trauma and violence in their childhoods and adulthood. I was able to give a perspective on the criminal justice process that few are able to give in the same way. I was able to truly empathize with and understand the fear and overwhelming depression that comes with being locked in a place of trauma and surviving childhoods full of pain and abandonment.
Being a volunteer at the VSC and an attorney and a graduate student, I feel fulfilled and able to help people in a way I have always been called to help. I now refer mothers and fathers in the court system to the services of the VSC so that they can receive the counseling they need to heal and to end the cycle of a abuse and neglect. Interning at the VSC allows a person to become a vehicle of hope and change and empowerment.
It’s never too late to heal. It’s never too late to start again.
If you’re interested in getting involved as a volunteer at the Victim Service Center you can apply through their online application here: https://victimservicecenter.org/volunteer/