Lawyer on Supporting Survivors’ Healing and Pursuing Justice

Each month, RAINN highlights a member of its National Leadership Council. The NLC is a group of dedicated individuals who have shown their commitment to RAINN’s mission of supporting survivors and ending sexual violence.

Paul Llewellyn is an experienced civil litigator and trial lawyer. After earning his law degree from Oxford University, England, and after learning the art of advocacy at the Inns of Court School of Law in Temple, London, Paul honed his trial skills as a barrister, trying approximately one hundred cases to verdict as prosecuting counsel for the Crown. After moving to California in 2001, Paul practiced at an elite Los Angeles litigation boutique—which twice won the highest verdict in California—and at Latham & Watkins LLP, one of the world’s premier international law firms. This unique background and experience makes Paul a highly-sought after litigator. In addition to his business litigation practice, Paul has also earned a reputation as one of the country’s leading practitioners pursuing civil lawsuits on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse, including childhood sexual abuse. These lawsuits have garnered both national and worldwide media attention, helping to bring about institutional change and raise community awareness.

What inspired you to become part of RAINN’s National Leadership Council?

As the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN does a tremendous job both in terms of raising awareness about sexual violence and helping survivors. I was truly honored to be asked to join the National Leadership Council and to lend my support to RAINN’s critical mission.

What do we need to do as a country to prevent sexual violence?

First and foremost, we need to recognize the prevalence of sexual violence and sexual abuse in this country. The statistics are truly shocking, but only by raising awareness about the scope of the epidemic can we then take meaningful steps as a society to address it. Second, education is critical, starting with young children, continuing through school, college and the workplace. Third, as a community, we can take steps to try to prevent sexual violence, whether it is giving someone a safe ride home, stepping in when we see something inappropriate, or asking our friends and family if they have had conversations with their children that will empower them to protect themselves.

Do you feel special motivation about this issue?

As I think any parent would agree, having children of your own—and I have two young children—is accompanied by a heightened concern for their safety and the safety of other children. Beyond that, I have supported dozens of clients as they have used the civil justice system to confront their abusers and those who enabled such mistreatment, while simultaneously witnessing first-hand the devastating effects it has had on their lives.

Your practice has a special focus on helping survivors of abuse. Why did you pursue this area of the law?

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we were and are business litigators, primarily representing corporations in high-stakes business disputes. Nearly 10 years ago, a client approached us who had endured years of abuse by two middle school teachers. No other firm would take her case, and we felt compelled to act. Together with two other survivors from the same school, we were eventually able to compel a settlement that was reported to be the highest settlement in U.S. history by a public school district. That case spurred our practice representing survivors of sexual abuse. Since then, we have handled dozens of civil matters on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse. While, of course, no amount of money could ever undo what has happened to our clients, they report to us the sense of empowerment they feel by shining a spotlight on what happened and holding accountable those who were responsible for the abuse. Our practice today encompasses both adults and children, and we handle lawsuits against both individuals and entities such as school districts, sports leagues, private organizations, hotels, and entertainment venues.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges facing survivors seeking justice?

On the civil side, if the perpetrator does not have the resources to pay a settlement or judgment, it can make bringing a lawsuit prohibitive. And there are timelines to bring a civil claim, known as the statute of limitations. It can take many years, often decades, for survivors to have the courage to come forward and disclose what happened to them. By that stage, it may be too late to bring a lawsuit. Fortunately, many states, including California, have recently greatly expanded the deadline for survivors to bring a civil claim. If someone is contemplating a civil claim, they should consult with an experienced attorney who will be able to advise them as to their rights.

How can we all be better supporters and advocates for survivors in our lives?

Don’t look away from abuse. Don’t avoid discussing it if someone you know has been mistreated and they are open to a conversation. Don’t avoid reporting if you have any suspicion that someone is being mistreated. And don’t assume that children are too helpless or innocent to learn strategies and behaviors that can help keep them safe.

What is your message to survivors?

There is always hope. You cannot erase the past, but you can continue to grow, day by day, into a person who is stronger and more capable than you can imagine. Trust in those who support and love you, and seek out professionals who can assist you in your journey of healing and empowerment.

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