(Transcript)

Justin Lovely:  Hi everyone this is attorney Justin Lovely coming to you live and I’m with my law partner, Amy Lawrence. She’s also my wife that you all know very well. And this is going to be this episode of The Carolina Justice Report sponsored by the Lovely Law Firm and South Carolina Law TV.

Today’s episode we’re going to speak about a topic that’s very close and dear to our heart, and it’s a fight that Amy and myself and our whole team fights every day. It’s something that we’re able to use our law degrees for the betterment of society and we really appreciate it. But it’s also the tough cases and it’s something very, very hard that everyone needs to understand fully, know both sides, and and see how you can help out yourself or a loved one. And that topic today is sexual assault cases.

There’s two alarming statistics that everyone needs to know. The first one, seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim. And the second alarming stat is that every 73 seconds, 73 seconds, another person experiences a sexual assault. And those are two very alarming stats. And Amy’s here to talk to you today. So Amy, just introduce yourself and then we’ll kind of deep dive into this topic and kind of go from there.

Amy Lawrence:  Right. So I’m Amy Lawrence Lovely and am a, I don’t like to say victims advocate. I like to say a survivor’s advocate. I volunteer with the Rape Crisis Center, and I get calls every day from women and parents that are survivors of sexual assault. You talked about those numbers Justin, but I remember sitting in a CLE once and they said that one in four people will be sexually assaulted in our lifetime. But that number is really one and two. It’s just we can only get one in four women and men to actually say the words that it’s happened.

Justin Lovely:   Yeah, come forward.

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah. So those numbers are staggering. The numbers are against us. And so we just got to know how to react and what to do and how to protect ourselves.

Justin Lovely: Right. So Amy, and this is elementary to us because we’re in this field every day, but what should you do to protect your legal rights if you think that you’re a victim of a sexual assault crime?

Amy Lawrence:  The first thing I tell people, and I mainly deal with women, but it’s not just women, it’s men too. But the first thing I tell these men and women is to report it to the police. Get the rape kit. And it’s really hard. I’ve sat and held hands with women going through rape kits and it is hard to say the least. And it is emotional and scary and overwhelming and all those things that come with that.

But while you don’t really want to take your case immediately all the way to the courthouse steps, by going to the police, by reporting it, getting the rape kit, you’re giving yourself an opportunity that way when you want to get back your voice, when you want to stand up and say, “This wasn’t okay,” that you’ll have an opportunity to do that.

Justin Lovely: Right. And that’s-

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah. So report, report, report.

Justin Lovely:  Right. And we see that-

Amy Lawrence: And let me just say this too. So a lot of times we’re willing to take one on the chin for ourselves, but I tell a lot of women, if you can’t do it for yourself, you do it for all the women that’ll come after you. Make him stop, him or her stop, for sure.

Justin Lovely: Right. Now after they report it to the police, and I know I’ve stayed at home when you’ve ran to the hospital in the middle of the night several times here. Especially here, we’re a college town and that’s just a very unfortunate part of our practice. But another way, I always tell this too, you may have touched on this, but we want to try to document our injuries, pictures and things like that. Because sometimes you may not always be able to rely on the police. Okay? So, you want to touch on that?

Amy Lawrence: Yeah. I mean we live in a country where thousands of rape kits are backed up. You know what I mean? They haven’t been tested. I think about Mariska Hargitay that’s on the show, she’s an actress that’s on the show, Special Victims Unit with Law & Order. And she has a foundation where she gets these backlogged rape kits. She gets them tested.

So we live in this country where, and I hate to say this, and this might piss some people off, but it’s the hard facts is that women and children, we take a back seat when it comes to crime. And I know that in the Myrtle Beach area at Horry County, we’ve had those issues time and time again. And so the best thing you can do for yourself, to advocate for yourself is to take pictures of the visible injuries that you have.

So a lot of times we have defensive wounds, fighting people off, hitting him, scratching him. You’ll notice that assailants will hurt you, will like bruises around your wrist, that kind of thing. So you want to take pictures and document everything, one, that you can remember from the attack, but two, also take pictures and document everything from after the attack, your injuries. Because it goes to help put that person away that that hurt you. And keep them from doing it.

Justin Lovely: Right. And what if the victim is a minor, Amy? Touch on that for a little bit.

Amy Lawrence:  So those cases are, they’re all heartbreaking, but those are particularly heartbreaking. And we see them time and time again. I mean, I get calls from all over the country actually, and their kid has been hurt and they don’t know what to do. We’re a mom and dad, Justin and I, we have two little boys. And the idea of somebody hurting our children is unfathomable. We don’t even want to go there. So I get it.

So parents, their first gut reaction with their babies is we don’t want to put them through any more than they’ve already been through. And I get that. I get it completely. We want to protect our kids at all costs. And I’ve noticed, and we have a trend through the United States that we don’t want to talk about it. It’s uncomfortable.

And I talked with victims that were victims when they were little girls and boys back in the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, and the first thing they say is, “My parents didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want me to tell the police.” And-

Justin Lovely:  That’s one of the reasons we’re talking about it right now.

Amy Lawrence:  It is. And the thing is, that’s not … There’s no right or wrong answer for any family particularly. It’s just what’s best for you. But I want parents to know that being able to talk about it takes the shame away from it because it’s not their fault. And when we talk about it and reinforce that they didn’t do anything wrong, that it empowers that child to have some kind of say so in their own life.

And here in Myrtle Beach and all over South Carolina, we have things here in Myrtle Beach, it’s called the Child Recovery Center, and they are absolutely wonderful. They are counselors and therapists that deal with nothing but sexual assault victims and children of sexual assault. And so they know how to speak to your children. They know how to talk to them. They know how to empower them.

They know how to help find their voice and tell what happened, that way it won’t ever happen again to another child. But it also gives that child … it empowers them to have their own voice to say, “That wasn’t okay. I didn’t choose this.” And that’s so important in the healing process that comes after all this stuff.

Justin Lovely:  Right. And that’s some deep stuff here for a live.

Amy Lawrence:  It’s going to make me cry. I know. When I think about the children that we deal with and the women, it’s really, really hard stuff. But that’s where our heart is. These are the people we want to protect. Yeah. We want to help them and hold their hand.

Justin Lovely:  And we’re able to help a lot of people.

Amy Lawrence:  And I will say this before we go there. A lot of times there’s no legal case, there’s nobody to sue, and that kind of stuff. That doesn’t matter. We’re here to help you and hold your hand through that process because it’s really hard. And if there is an avenue that we can go down to try to punish somebody for letting this happen or not securing an area or an employee or whatever, we will go down that road. But even if there’s not a road to go down, we’ll still hold your hand through that process. For sure.

Justin Lovely:  And you know as well as I do, we always make sure the client is first and all of our staff, you and I and all of our attorneys, we’re all trained in compassion and empathy. And we’re here to listen to the story and help any way that we can, whether that’s legally, personally, socially, any way that we can. Our whole team’s here for you.

I switched it up Amy. We hear about some crazy stuff in the news and especially in regards to these assault cases is the ride share issues with Uber and Lyft. Let’s touch on that, because that is really big down here at the beach, especially we’re a tourist town. All young ladies and young men need to be aware of these issues and how they can protect themselves. But kind of touch on that there.

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah. So I mean we see this in the news a lot lately, probably in the last couple of weeks, last month and a half, two months. We see with these ride share apps we’ve got women who are maybe drinking a little bit too much and worried, don’t want to drive. They’re doing the right thing. They get on their phone and they call a ride share app like Uber or Lyft, and before you know it, they’re being sexually assaulted by driver.

And it’s scary as hell. I mean, there’s no other way to put it. We teach our kids when they go off to college, “You do the right thing, you don’t drink or drive.” And then they turn around and they’re hurt even worse than a ticket. You know? And so a great example of that would be, and it’s heartbreaking and awful, and I know we talked about this when it happened. But there was a little girl, and when I say little girl, a young woman, who had left. She was a student at USC, at University of South Carolina.

And she got into the wrong Uber and she was killed. And when we hear that life  stories our stomach just like cringes and drops for those parents and that young woman and all the time that she won’t have here to do great things. The problem is with these Uber and Lyft apps is that they are getting these drivers and they’re not vetting the criminal aspect of these guys.

We’re seeing them doing these thorough traffic violation backgrounds, but we’re not seeing this criminal background check. And so that’s a huge red flag because these men, and they’re particularly … they’ve pretty much all been men I think, have a propensity for violence. And they knew or should have known by doing a simple background check that they could’ve known.

So I tell these women and men that if something were to happen, if they were violated sexually by an Uber or Lyft driver or a ride share in any way, my first thing I’d tell them is report it. Tell the police. Preserve your phone. Document your injuries, all those things because it matters in the end.

Justin Lovely:  Yeah. And you’re seeing this in the news with particularly the Uber cases, and it’s a big PR nightmare because both of those companies are just trying to grow, grow, grow as fast as they can, not doing what they’re supposed to do. And this is the downside. These young women are getting assaulted. And there’s a flood of lawsuits going on right now.

Now Lyft has taken some steps. They’re in the news, kind of seems like they are taking the high road here. There hasn’t been as many bad news stories, at least in my experience with Lyft. But both of those companies, everybody just needs to be aware that both of those companies are here in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area where we practice especially, and just be on the lookout. Just try to protect yourself as best you can.

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah. And if something happens, call us. We can help walk you through that process for sure.

Justin Lovely: Right. Now let’s switch up again. So that’s a big issue. Now, another area of practice that we see these kind of cases come through, and people wouldn’t even think to even think about this. They wouldn’t even … This blows people’s minds when we tell them this, but it’s doctors and dentists, those kinds of sexual assault cases. Talk about that Amy, because this is a big … something that everybody needs to be aware of. And they may not even assume that it’s happening to them, but it’s a real problem.

Amy Lawrence: So it’s crazy because like I said, we get calls every day. Some days I just want to go home and like … I mean I went home crying before and said, “Justin, I just got to go home and throw the covers over my head because I can’t hear of another young woman who’s been hurt or another kid that’s been hurt,” because it’s hard. These are really, really hard cases. I’m going to cry thinking about it.

But you would be surprised how many calls we get about sexual assault with doctors. And a great example is a doctor rubbing a woman’s breast and telling her how great her breast implants look and asked to did them, as he’s rubbing her breast, molesting. And I tell women all the time, we have this … We’ve been indoctrinated to be polite as women. A man can be an asshole, but we can’t be a bitch, right?

So we want to be polite. We want to smile and we want to go along because we’re supposed to trust these people because they have an MD or an OD or whatever, a DDS. And so these things happen and we question ourselves and we’re trying to be polite and we’re just trying to get through it. But our gut tells us that something’s wrong. And so I get call after call, you would be surprised. If your gut is telling you something is not right then get up and walk away.

Justin Lovely:  Yeah. Get up, walk away, scream.

Amy Lawrence:  Kick, scream, yell, tell somebody. Report it, please. For the love of God, report it because if he’s doing it to you, he’s doing it to somebody else.

Justin Lovely:  Yeah. And here-

Amy Lawrence: Also we always tell, I don’t go into a doctor’s office with a male doctor by myself. I always ask for a nurse to be present just because we hear these stories. You know? And so I think that’s a great pointer to tell people. Ask for a female nurse, for sure.

Justin Lovely: Yeah. You definitely are holding him accountable when that’s there. Now of course you know they may be investigated but they may not be arrested. But let’s talk real quickly, obviously if the perpetrator is convicted, how does that help our civil case?

Amy Lawrence: Well it helps because it takes the burden off of us, I guess, to prove that the sexual assault happened to begin with. And even beyond just helping with the case, it helps empower women and children and survivors of sexual assault. It helps empower you to take … because you didn’t have a choice in that matter. You just had to survive.

And we carry this guilt with us because something happened to us, like somehow it’s our fault or whatever. And by going through that process, taking your voice back saying, “This wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay with this. This is not fair. This person is violent. This person needs to go to jail.” Whatever that is for you, it’s invaluable and it 100% helps with the healing process for sure.

Justin Lovely:  Right. And we work with the victims advocate if a survivor goes through this and we hold their hands and know all the ins and outs. Now another big issue, Amy, and this has been in the news as well, and people don’t think about this either in South Carolina. But I know you’re out there and if you need help, we’re here to talk to you. But that is former New York residents who have relocated here to the Myrtle Beach area or anywhere in South Carolina who may have lived in New York State 20, 30 years ago and something like this happened to them.

A lot of them won’t think … they think, “The statute of limitations is gone. There’s nothing I can do.” But there was a key law passed in New York state, the Child Victims Act. And let’s talk about that, Amy. And how we can help if by chance you are out there listening or watching this or a loved one you know, and you may are wondering, “Do I have a case?”

Amy Lawrence: Yeah. And it can be with any kind of case, whether it’s against the Boy Scouts or whatever. But I think that law was specifically, it’s a broad law, but it was really put in place for those that were hurt and abused by the Catholic Church. And so what happened is these young men and women were abused sexually and they didn’t tell anybody. They bottled it up and they didn’t tell anybody. Or maybe they did tell somebody and somebody covered it up.

And by the time they realized they had their voice, their statute of limitations had ran. And that’s not fair. And so God bless New York State and their legislature because they passed a law that says, “We’re going to extend the statute of limitations and we’re going to open it up for one year.” And Justin, what is the date on that? I can’t remember. Is it August of next year?

Justin Lovely:  It took place August of this year. There’s already thousands of claims filed. And we’ve developed partnerships over the years with some of the mega New York firms that basically we’re handling everybody in South Carolina and then also helping with the litigation in New York State. But we have to get those cases filed by the middle of next August.

The legislature opened a one year special extension of the statute. So we’ve got to get them vetted, investigations done and filed. So if your family member or anybody possibly, you want to talk to us about these kinds of things, just call us and we’ll see if it’s something we can help you with. And I mean these are cases where you could be 50 or 60 years old and something happened in your childhood. Well, the statute’s open, limited just one year. We got to get it filed and see if you have a case. We might be able to help.

Amy Lawrence: And it’s scary as hell because there are so many survivors that are 50, 60, 65 years old who’ve been living with this weight of what happened to them their whole lives. And right now with this new law that extends the statute of limitations, it gives those survivors an opportunity to take their voice back to say what happened to them, that people will listen and believe them. Because I believe you.

There are a lot of people … when we see victims come forward, there are always naysayers. But let me just tell you this, I believe you. I 100% believe you and I will believe you until you can be a reason not to.

Justin Lovely: Right. And this is very deep, deep stuff here. Of course we give private consultations.

Amy Lawrence: I mean, you choose some amazing stuff to put on social media, Justin. This is a wonderful topic honey.

Justin Lovely: Well, it’s an important topic and I’m glad. We got to get the news out. And if we can help one person or we touch one person, I think that’s a success with what we’re trying to do here.

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah, absolutely. The only way to stamp out darkness is to bring it to light. And so we’ve got to start talking about this stuff because it’s so prevalent. I’m a member of this law mama group and we’re all lawyer mamas. And I remember a couple of months ago, it was during the Brett Kavanaugh stuff, women started telling their stories of what happened to them.

And we never want to think of ourselves as victims, but it gave us an opportunity, it gave everybody an opportunity, all women, all men, to tell their stories. And they started telling their stories. And I literally sat on a Saturday and you were looking at me like I was crazy until I told you why I was crying. And I read their stories and they date back from the time they were little children up until when they were in college.

And the majority of them who had been sexually assaulted once had been sexually assaulted again. And these are women, these are bad ass lawyer women that went through all this. So if you ever think that you’re alone, if you ever think that you had it coming to you or whatever, do not carry that shame and do not carry that guilt for the rest of your life. Stand up, have your voice and you’re going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. And we can work through it and we can heal together. I don’t mind holding your hand through that process for sure.

Justin Lovely: That’s what we do.

Amy Lawrence:  Yeah, it is.

Justin Lovely:  Yeah, well that’s enough for today. Again, I’m attorney Justin Lovely. You heard from Amy Lawrence. We’re the partners here at the Lovely Law Firm. Give us a call. 843-839-4111. You can go to the website, justiceislovely.com. Again, this has been the Carolina Justice Report, sponsored by South Carolina Law TV and the Lovely Law Firm. Call us if you need us. We’re here to help. Take it easy.

 

 

 

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