Friday, March 12, 2010
Many people throughout the world are victimized by a judicial proceeding that turned out badly, or turned out well but included torture from an abusive judge and/or lawyer, loss of family, career, money, house, and/or health despite a successful end. Everyone is affected by the experience and many are traumatized by it.
The "teachers' trial" 3020-a arbitration is not a trial, people say. It doesn't matter. The trauma of being put into a situation similar to that of being "on trial" is enough to establish a baseline for psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In May, 2007, I attended a conference on judicial accountability and whistleblower protection in Washington DC and Karen Huffer was there. She is the Editor of a book on Legal Abuse Syndrome, what I am writing about here.
Legal Abuse Syndrome
WARNING: Protracted litigation can be hazardous to your health.
Legal Abuse Syndrome - PTSD
You know you have traumatic stress when:
•Ø there are no words to describe how you feel...
•Ø your heart is saying, I CAN'T STAND TO BE HERE, NOW
•Ø Peace, rest and recuperation are prevented by intrusive thoughts and emotions
Our's is a time of injustice due to ethical violations, legal abuses and Fraud on the Court.
What do we do about it? Also, See "Current Hot Topics."
Legal Abuse Syndrome(LAS) is a psycholegal trauma (a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a psychic injury, not a mental illness. It is a personal injury that develops in individuals assaulted by ethical violations, legal abuses, betrayals, and fraud. Abuse of power and authority and a profound lack of accountability in our courts have become rampant. This adds greatly to the original distress requiring court assistance in the first place.
This stress can and does lead to physical illness. AMA statistics show that around 85% of all physical illness is directly attributable to stress. Legal Abuse Syndrome is a public health menace in this country. It leads to massive medical intervention costs, burdens insurance companies, and adds to Medicare and Social Security costs. Most painfully it shuts down the brilliance and creativity of its sufferers. Legal Abuse Syndrome is detrimental to all of society, and nobody is immune.
Whatever the court setting, whether it is regarding divorce, child custody, parental support, probate matters, personal injury, property disputes, legal or medical malpractice, criminal charges or other deeply personal issues, the frauds put forth in our courts add greatly to the trauma. When litigants are unable to get fair resolution to their issues, when the court dysfunction further adds to the litigant's burden, when no amount of actual case law compels an equitable outcome, litigants suffer often disabling levels of stress. When further attempts to achieve redress fail, litigants display the hallmark signs of Legal Abuse Syndrome(LAS) a subcategory of PTSD.
To Overcome the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome, become empowered, be enabled to function in court, and inspired to continue you may need supportive help:
There is a self-help book - To order your copy of Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome, click here.
PTSD treatment is compensable under most health insurance. To learn more about PTSD see http://traumacenter.org.
Karin Huffer, MS/MFT, author of Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome, has achieved over twenty years of research and experience in diagnosing and treating Legal Abuse Syndrome. She has been an ADA Section 504 Consultant worked with schools, businesses, and the judicial system to provide effective accommodations for those who suffer from disabilities. She has put the groundbreaking new out based upone her research that our judicial system can and does cause traumatic stress in those who seek civilized, fair due process of law and redress of grievances.
Synopsis of Legal Abuse Syndrome
Legal Abuse Syndrome is a 234 page book which discusses the effects of, and steps to recovery from Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS), which the author has defined as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from abusive and protracted litigation.
Anyone subjected to the abuses of the American civil justice system will immediately identify with the cover and quotations appearing on the back cover of the book.
Ms. Huffer begins in the Preface by defining LAS, and in the Introduction identifies seven LAS victims whose stories she has woven into a highly readable self-help book for other victims of LAS. Legal Abuse Syndrome also doubles as a text book for mental health professionals providing therapy to LAS victims.
The book is divided into 10 chapters. Beginning in Chapters 1 and 2, Huffer identifies the symptoms of the LAS victim and the etiology of LAS. These two introductory chapters are followed by 8 chapters in which the author breaks down the Eight Steps to Recovery, consisting of Debriefing, Grieving, Obsession, Blaming, Deshaming, Reframing, Empowerment and Recovery.
Each chapter begins with a relevant quote which sets the stage for the material presented. The book concludes with Maya Angelou's powerful poem, "I rise."
Chapter 1 - "Invisible Hostages" reveals the hostage condition that results from betrayals of trust and the quiet crimes. Symptoms of the hostage-stage psychological reactions are put forth with a list of the white-collar crimes, litigation/judicial atrocities and bureaucratic failings that cumulatively assault victims. The case of James graphically portrays the path from the initial affront through the aftermath of the crime. James went to law enforcement agencies, sued through the courts at huge expense, and found his situation worsened to the point of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Chapter 1 includes one cartoon and two illustrations.
Chapter 2 - "The Epidemic" illustrates the chemical changes that take place in the brain during prolonged victimization. It becomes clear that a profound sense of helplessness in the face of jeopardy causes post traumatic stress disorder. The longer the feeling of helplessness lasts, the more pronounced are the symptoms. Victims find themselves in the symptoms as they relate to their own experiences. James shares that at the time he needed the protection of his judicial system, it betrayed him. He was left unable to obtain justice. Extensive research supports the theory that "psycholegal" post traumatic stress disorder is a common occurrence in litigants and victims of the invisible crimes. The reader can look around and see the "cellophane-wrapped" victims who have moved beyond rage to an implosive, cyclical lifestyle. These victims usually remain invisible. The chapter includes one illustration.
Chapter 3 - "Debriefing" begins the second part of the book, the eight steps to recovery. Debriefing is an activity that the reader can do. It centers around a graphic, processing sheet that delineates losses, feelings and facts. This chapter begins a caring journey. The sense of isolation is relieved in victims as they see their experience(s) begin to take a manageable form. The case of P.J., who broke through denial during debriefing helps us understand how to effectively respond to victims. This chapter also lists "absolutely what not to say to a victim." The chapter includes one illustration and two reader participation graphics.
Chapter 4 - "Grieving" clarifies that loss of trust is the greatest loss known to a human being. The case of Judy demonstrates the profound effect of bureaucratic and law enforcement behavior on a victim. Judy had to face the FBI, the IRS, and court after a betrayal by her husband. Grieving masques as depression (the common cold of mental illness), exhaustion, varied illnesses and conditions. Grieving over loss of property is usually discounted in American culture. "Takings" have become a part of business strategy and are often done through the use of the system. Bankruptcy court, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS effect takings of property without due process. Takings threaten the lifeblood of the nation. The case of John depicts the nebulous nature of grief. It is pushed aside if the loss is not "respectably" large. John breaks down over a tiny tangible issue that, in fact, reflects huge intangible losses. In this chapter we see that the loss of belief systems, trust, and ideals are critical to the loss picture. Each case will show that our protective systems did not function as intended, and inadvertently or by design, intensified the trauma. Legal Abuse Syndrome , a journey Beyond Rage... and Back, articulates that the right to redress in order to prevent losses and to exact recompense is key to a sense of safety and security necessary for mental health.
Chapter 5 - "Obsession" leads us toward a sense of control over our lives again. Readers become aware that obsession is a natural response to victimization. Randomization is a difficult concept to grasp in life. When good people are assaulted and left unaffirmed by their culture's systems, life proceeds on a path with no moral compass - no guide to safety. A list of obsessive styles is characterized by descriptive names, i.e. "Lifeguard," obsesses around health; where as an "Inventorier" counts and accounts for all belongings, endlessly. What to do about easing obsession is listed with case examples. A sense of humor interweaves as victims look at their obsessive selves with acceptance.
Chapter 6 - "Blaming" faces victim-blaming head on. Society discourages blaming; therefore, victims are praised for taking responsibility for the awful things that happen to them. Further, victims often see little recourse once blame is established. Attribution is a necessary step toward justice because it reinforces the moral code. This chapter gives a victim a graphic for assessing degrees of blame and then enriches the reader with specific blaming actions dramatized by James and the other cases. Barriers to blaming are explored, such as guilt and societal pressure. There is a self-blame checklist followed by the danger of self blame. Revenge and punishment are contrasted with appropriate, quality blaming actions which drive behavior toward the moral code. Those ignored, outrageous assaults by attorneys and the systems, such as slander and character assassination in the courtroom and denied right to redress, are listed at the end of the chapter. Victims begin to feel that they are not crazy or at fault. This chapter includes a reader participation check list.
Chapter 7 - "Deshaming" offers a totally unique approach to understanding human motivation in terms of power. A continuum is presented which ranks a person's motivating force as either conscience-based or power-based. Human interactions can be visualized as on a grid. The conscience-based person is often victimized even though he may have spiritual power. Power-based people are motivated by envy and a need for superior posture. Lying is a key tool of the power motivated person. Lying wins over truth. Here is where violation of the moral code is "business as usual" for some and an outrage to others. Shame is known to the conscience-based person,who often absorbs shame from the violator as well. A tournament of the game, "Prisoner's Dilemma," is used as an example of strategies that help conscience-based people learn to identify and cope with power-based individuals. Specific skills are taught regarding cooperation, competition, and self-protection. Thus, to free them from shame, the readers are able to relinquish undeserved shame and to follow guiding principles for modification of their belief systems. The case of Manny exemplifies the predicament and the process for deshaming. The chapter includes two illustrations.
Chapter 8 - "Reframing" is the pivotal procedure that embarks upon recovery. All five steps leading to reframing are required to effectively achieve this phase. The victim shifts from a painful perception of self to a new, open, morally sound and personally inspired view of himself. There is an LAS Reframe Exercise which allows the painful issue to come forth. Then the pain is put to the reframe steps. The victim might say, "I was a fool." Reframed, the victim will say, "I was a trustworthy person, I believed that others were largely trustworthy too." Then the victim searches for the wisdom gained from the experience. The chapter includes one reader participation checklist.
Chapter 9 - "Empowerment" more than anything, brings a fresh approach for legal and bureaucratic problem solving to the ordinary person. Steps are blueprints: 1) seek and destroy misinformation, 2) from pragmatic expectations, 3) avoid the predictable, 4) persevere, 5) use mental toughness, 6) become a vigilante consumer, 7) call a crime a crime. Misinformation is a strategic tool used by abusers of the justice systems. It crushes the force of truth distorting the course towards justice. Oppression thrives on misinformation. Empowerment requires effective attacks on misinformation through official channels. The predictable path is owned by the power-centered. They travel ahead and prepare to take the conscience-centered person out at every turn. Victims need each other and creative approaches. This chapter ties into Appendix B which contains a host of resources. Eleven tools and techniques are presented. Rules and regulations of an institution are usually broken by those who abuse from within the organization. Finding those violations empowers a victim tremendously. Mental toughness is the ability to never lose focus regardless of attacks or diversions. Vigilante consumers focus on the real bottom line in America, the consumer. When crimes occur, they must be treated as crimes and dealt with by consumers who keep the focus on the real bottom line. The chapter contains one graphic.
Chapter 10 - "Recovery" brings perspective. Victims become veterans who have an important function in correcting societal wrongs. Readers are brought up to date by parting words from the victims whose cases were portrayed in the book. It becomes apparent that recovery is not a destination but a journey wherein the eight steps are incorporated into a renewed lifestyle. Forgiveness and restoration are discussed as quite separate issues from recovery. Veterans are no longer cellophane-wrapped hostages but are back in the game of life, risking once more. Trust as a staple, societal issue is explored in the context of LAS being a totally preventable assault to the mental health of our nation.
In the Conclusion , Ms. Huffer thanks her patients who have trusted her and taught her that there is an invisible fabric woven of American character found in the ordinary person. It is an invitation for these victims who refused to be soul-murdered to lead the nation back into a future of hope, trust and a code of American conduct that they represent to quietly. The Epilogue contains a snapshot of an LAS victim that has been driven beyond rage.
The book includes a Bibliography which cites referenced and related works included as well as a Glossary of terms used in the book.
Appendix A defines clinical post traumatic stress disorder.
Appendix B - Resources for the Empowerment of the Ordinary Person. This appendix provides the LAS victim with a list of organizations dedicated to legal reform and victim rights.
Appendix C - Victims-Witness Protection Act of 1984.
Appendix D contains worksheets to be used in conjunction with the book.
The following pages contain the Preface and Introduction as they appear in the actual book.
* If you are deeply disillusioned and feeling oppressed as an American Citizen, resulting from experience with our justice system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If you've been a litigant in court and justice was not to be obtained at any price, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If you fantasize an act of vigilante vengeance because it seems like the only recourse, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If you've reported a crime and found that you were punished instead of the criminal, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If creativity and dreams have been left in the past because their development was ripped from you and torn to shreds by your protective systems, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If you feel numb, disconnected, and vulnerable, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
* If you feel that you have been victimized twice, once by a perpetrator and then by your protective system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
Some will deny that Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS) exists. They will remind us that we have an adversarial system of justice. Abuses will be written off as adversaries battling for their clients. Victims will be nothing more than casualties of a "fight for justice." Others will worry that victims of LAS will want compensation for their psychological injuries. Skeptics will ask, "Aren't LAS victims just malingerers wanting more from the system?"
I do not indict the legal profession, fine judges and hard working public servants. I applaud those who serve their clients well in any milieu. We do not bash any organization or profession in this book. Lawyers, judges, FBI agents, police officers and investigators have all crossed my private practice and helped me to delineate the abuse of power that permeates every profession. Many of these professionals are themselves invisible victims also and need the support of the public.
Abusers are studied in this book as a method of exposing to LAS victims the predicament that oppresses them. The systems are explored in the light of victims' experiences. The psycholegal condition is revealed along with skills to help the victim cope with abusers of his systems. The scope is a large one for a marriage and family therapist or or fellow victim to tackle. It may feel unwieldy and threatening to the reader. However, reading and rereading has produced results and has motivated me to risk a big project and perhaps an unpopular one in behalf of those invisible victims who can heal in spite of systems without a cure.
A firm warning to those who would use the following material to damage or discredit any citizen in any manner:
LEGAL ABUSE SYNDROME IS A NATURAL AND NORMAL RESPONSE TO AN ABNORMAL, UNNATURAL, CUMULATIVE TRAUMA, AS WITH ALL POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDERS. ANY ATTEMPT BY ANY PERSON TO DISCREDIT AN INDIVIDUAL'S TESTIMONY, CHARACTER, OR ACTIONS DUE TO THEIR SUFFERING FROM LAS IS TO CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE THE ABERRANT NATURE OF OUR SYSTEM OF PROBLEM-SOLVING. ANY ALLY OF CIVILIAZATION MUST CLEARLY IDENTIFY SUCH BEHAVIOR AS ABUSIVE, PUT A HALT TO DESTRUCTIVE ACTIONS, AND DEVOTE THEIR ENERGIES TO RESTORATION OF VICTIMS OF THE "SYSTEMS".
No one likes to think of himself as a victim. Immediately, it conjures an image of a loser or someone making poor life-choices. Yet, in spite of resistance to facing our victimization, legal abuses have become common. When abuses occur, victims are created. We either have to face that we are victimized or accept an aberration to civilized living as being "just the way it is".
Laws provide for courts, agencies, law enforcement bureaucracies, and regulatory services. We depend on them to resolve our disputes and to protect our cherished rights. When they fail, our nation must deal with the victims and vigilantes left in the wake of officially sanctioned wrongdoing.
In this book, we will explore cases that are shocking and fascinating. They illustrate abuses perpetrated by our legally instituted protective systems and the pain and suffering that results. Citizens are driven "Beyond Rage." However startling and moving our cases may be, we have only touched a segment of their lives and experiences. Each case has left unrevealed depth of trauma and complication that would be prohibitive in space and time to write about in one book.
This work results from my experiences of the past twenty years as a marriage and family therapist in private practice. Throughout my career, a certain discomfort gnawed at me regarding clients who attended my various groups and seminars. While the seminars dealt with the subjects of codependency, substance abuse, parenting, divorce adjustment, assertiveness, stress, or whatever the current topic dictated, there always remained the walking wounded. Those were clients, whose true source of pain was not recognized by family or friends. Worse, it was never clearly defined by helping professionals. With no diagnosis, their condition could not be targeted for treatment. Invisible trauma nebulously danced around the topics, never to be healed in these hungry participants.
It wasn't until a white-collar crime was perpetrated on my family that I saw these walking wounded with uncomfortably opened eyes. After nearly a decade of struggling with the justice system, and working with other such victims,I have concluded that the enormous betrayals and inefficiencies that make up bureaucratic post-crime experiences, are literally attacking the emotional health of this nation. Victims have no satisfying place to turn. Rage accumulates and its sequelae have reached epidemic proportions.
A therapist must, of course, check such observations against the danger of inaccurately projecting onto a client personal feelings or attitudes that go beyond the therapeutic use of self. I have done that. Even more uncomfortably now, i see the massive validation of my theory by participants in the "Beyond Rage" seminars. Still theoretical, but deadly serious, is the thesis of this book that victims in America are, first, assaulted by crime and, secondly, by abuses of power and authority administered by the systems their tax dollars support to provide due process of law. In short, they get a "double whammy."
People of principle find their decency, trustworthiness, responsibility, and use of their courts trounced by systems that perpetrate judicial and bureaucratic atrocities. Americans, who follow a code of conscience, encounter a profound imbalance between the abuses of power perpetrated by those entrusted with the systems and the prohibitive conscience of the ordinary person to violation of values and laws. At the heart of this book is the threatened psychic underpinning of the American citizen which is tied into the Constitutionally protected rights that we depend upon. To imperil the basic freedoms, which Americans are taught are their birthright, is to jeopardize conditions of trust and safety necessary for a healthy, productive life.
Victims challenge the finest of counseling techniques. The lack of closure combines with prolonged, cruel, and unusual punishment exerted by the court system. Ongoing strain of litigation then interfaces with psychological issues. Diagnoses are tricky and dynamic. Healing techniques and strategies are interrupted by the trauma of the proceedings or behaviors of court personnel. Stress reduction training is of marginal value for a litigant who will regularly be administered another dose of outrage. The best of family intervention is defeated if the family court renders a visitation arrangement that destroys continuity in the raising of the children or if the current custodial parent is harassed and stalked, unprotected by the law enforcement system.
Outrage is tough enough. Beyond rage is terribly painful territory. I caution the reader that to earnestly use this self-help material for healing purposes will be challenging. On the other hand, if you choose to stay beyond rage, you exist in a type of living death. So victims of the systems are caught between a tough place and a really hard place. Go slowly, get involved in groups, if possible, but don't let your lifeblood be stripped from you without a fight. This book will help to get you back on your fighting feet. You won't change massive systems or reform your country in all likelihood. However, when all of the trauma has been processed, you will become an empowered, effective individual again.
More and more, helping professionals are being confronted by "psycholegal" issues. Patients are driven beyond rage over an extended period of time during which victims travel an isolated road. The impact of the invisible assaults usually are ignored.
Vigilante violence results when the needs of the majority are not being met by the systems (Tucker). What of the gentle and decent person who values a law abiding mode of life? Unless the unique needs of these victims are identified and healing processes made accessible to them, the cost in pain, suffering, disillusionment, and shutdown of creativity to the individual and society is immeasurable.
Karin Pearson Huffer
© 2010 http://www.legalabusesyndrome.org/
Commercial Law Bulletin