safety

Lawyers are human, too

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting AreaI write about lawyers a lot. I mean, they say, write what you know, right? After 30 years practicing family law, I know a little bit about them.

I don’t always like them, mind you–so I understand why some people really dislike them.

The same thing can happen inside a law firm. Lawyers have different ways of doing things, and sometimes those ways can lead to outright discord.  Wise senior partners do what they can to minimize these fractures, because that protects the bottom line.

Encounter_ebook_FinalIn ENCOUNTER, one such law firm with offices in Chicago, Washington DC, and Denver, finds itself in distress. Annike Lorant and Mitchell Kadeen, the law firm’s senior partners, have divorced, now working in separate offices, but their bitter split is poisoning the daily work of the firm. Cattrin Odeon works with Mitch in the D.C. area, a sniping little birdlike woman determined to make others as miserable as she is. New partner in the Denver office John Kirk Nicholas is still living his college football hero days, at least in his mind. Judy Norell is the worker bee who’s trying to bandaid things together despite the odds. Chicago partner Teo Haroun has just been given a deadly diagnosis that he’s struggling to keep from his law partners. Mitch and Judy decide a retreat in New Mexico is just the thing to get his firm back on track.

They hire a team-building group to lead them through the retreat, and venture to the Sherman Ranch, outside Santa Fe. The Ranch is managed by Jake Patrin, a recovering addict (and probably the favorite character of all I’ve written), who has his own issues.

What they don’t know is that they are about to collide with a truckload of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico who get caught in a freak March snowstorm. With 3214318748_2ff744f887_mnowhere else to go, the survivors make their painful way to the Ranch, dropping in on the lawyers, who must find a way to co-exist until the snow melts. As you might expect, some of the lawyers do better than others at this.

Here’s an excerpt:

The screaming from inside yanked Jake Patrin’s attention from the successful start-up of the generator where he worked in the shed. His head swiveled back toward the house. What in sweet Jesus’ name…

It was the women, he could tell from the pitch. Hell, maybe someone’d found a dead mouse in the kitchen closet, in amongst the merlot he couldn’t get out of his mind. Muttering a curse under his breath, he pulled his pea coat closed to trudge to the house through the knee-deep snow.

He came through the mud room, doffed his coat and boots, slipped on softer- soled shoes as the rumpus continued. The door between the mud room and the kitchen area was closed, but he could hear a babel of voices, some of which he recognized, others…

He frowned.

Someone was yelling and cursing in Spanish, male voices he didn’t recognize at all. It didn’t sound like a performance, one of his guests playing a role for effect. Jake didn’t speak Spanish well – hell, it had been nearly twenty years since his time in Central America – but he knew enough to understand it was a threat.

Christ on a rutting Harley.

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A quick look around the mud room showed him more than he’d noticed at first. Twice as many clothes as there should have been. Much more snow melting in piles than two men would have brought back. Something was seriously not right.

 

He scanned the room, but found nothing he could use as a credible weapon. Jake picked up a rough-handled shovel; it was the best he had. He leaned close against the door, listening a moment more to see if he could get any clue what might be going on, but there was only more yelling. The young kid from the team urged people to be calm, something about the fire. No help. He took a deep breath and swung the door open.

He was unprepared for the scene that faced him. He came in behind several huge dirty men in the kitchen, along with the kid, Will. The big boss, Kadeen, was pinned in a chair with something shiny at his throat, a wild-eyed wetback holding his shoulder. Everyone else cowered on the far side of the pass-through, watching with horrified expressions, eyes he was sure were as wide as his.

There wasn’t much time to think. It seemed to him to unfold in a jerky slo-mo. As the door opened, the two men closest to him turned, saw the shovel. The younger guy holding Kadeen yelled and made a movement with the shiny object as women screamed. It clicked in his mind that the men weren’t fat, they were bundled in layers of wet clothing. The kitchen floor was slick with water and mud. He went to raise the shovel, but Will Starlin jumped across the space between him and the others.

“No, wait!” Will grabbed the handle of the shovel, his gaze intense. “They don’t mean to hurt anyone. They need help. They’re half frozen! Please.”

There was a scream in the other room, and Judy’s anxious face appeared in the pass-through. “Will—they’ve passed out, the two women. Something’s wrong with them.”

The older blonde made some comment to the other fancy woman, sotto voce, looking down on the fallen. Judy, standing behind her, shot her a look, then turned back to Will.

A spurt of angry Spanish burst from the man holding Kadeen. Jake looked at the two men closest to him, both of whom looked worse for wear. Will pushed Jake forward.

“This man…uh,  el hombre es….um… medico. Ayuda. Doctor. Um…”

“Son, I ain’t no doc—“

“Shut up!” Will hissed, leaning close in to the older man. “You’re the closest we got. These people need help and fast. They’ve been out in the snow for hours, I think. Please, Mr. Patrin. They’re not thinking right, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Jake took a deep breath. “Fine.”

 

ENCOUNTER, from Three Fates Press. Now on sale at Amazon—$2.65 for paperback! 

 

 

She serves, too–but at a price

SecondChances-promoOne of my Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer novels, SECOND CHANCES, tells the story of Inessa Regan, a forty-something lawyer who is unexpectedly thrust into the world of solo family practice. She comes to know an Iraq War veteran, Kurt Lowden,  and his soldier friends, some of whom have serious issues from their time abroad.

PROVIDE COMFORT

One of the worst is the Post Traumatic Distress suffered by Susie Johnston, the wife of Kurt’s best friend.  As an intelligence officer, she’d be invaluable to her unit, gathering information about threats and targets from prisoners. Wall-to-wall counseling, in the local jargon.

But as a woman in a battle unit, she also faces risks she should never have to face: assaults by men in her own unit. Female soldiers in such theatres speak of being afraid to go to the latrine at night, staying in their beds for safety.

Susie is raped during one such trip to the latrine, and the resulting trauma triggers domestic violence and worse on her arrival back in the States.

Sadly, this is not the stuff of fiction.

And as in Hollywood and Washington, the pressure not to disclose, report and prosecute these crimes is hard on women. While the military gives lip service to criminalizing and going after sexual assault perpetrators, the reality is that no one wants to hear about it.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “sexual assault was something female troops did not dare talk about for fear that they would face retaliation and be discharged with a ‘mental health diagnosis.’ ” They go on to say that 62% of those who report face ostracism and retaliation.

In a 2016 story, Huffington Post quotes groundbreaking Chinook pilot Olivia Chavez as saying “she was sexually assaulted multiple times by several different men while on active duty.” Her determination to keep her job made her force all the trauma inside–leading to a worse trauma later when she finally had to deal with what had happened.

2856908465_1033eaedcaby theisKojorthReading comments on these stories, there isn’t a lot of sympathy for the women. Many blame the system that put men and women together on the battlefield, especially when the system as set up is so skewed toward men (i.e. even in VA hospitals, many times the women veterans don’t have equal access to restrooms and other facilities). Hardly anyone says, “Why can’t the men just stop raping women?” Is that really such a difficult concept?

What has happened to many of the 280,000 women veterans coming back from the Middle East is unspeakable. Their trauma leads to homelessness, mental health treatment, even suicide. The HuffPo articles says this: “A report released last year showed that for women veterans between 18 and 29 years of age, the risk of suicide is 12 times the rate of nonveteran women.”

Twelve times.

Unacceptable.

Maybe as the stigma of calling out criminal behavior lessens in the civilian world, we can hope that it does the same in the military world. At least the military leaders should lead and protect those who serve with them, instead of taking advantage, and the bureaucracy set up to help those who are assaulted despite policy should step up and make that happen. If our military is to be one of the best in the world, then we should hold them to high moral standards as well.

At least, in celebrating Veterans’ Day this year, we can remember those women who sacrifice their very soul for the right to serve.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

***

SECOND CHANCES, a book from Zumaya Publications, begins the day attorney Inessa Regan receives a pink slip after ten years of faithful service. She’s been a mid-level associate her whole career, partners telling her what to do, providing her with an office and everything she needs. Thrown out into the legal world on her own, she doesn’t know how she’ll survive.  Her neighbor brings her first client, Kurt Lowdon, a young Iraq veteran with cancer, who’s looking just to have a will made. Inessa struggles to give Kurt what he needs, and he helps make it easy for her.

Once his immediate needs are met, he takes her under his wing and brings her more clients as well as a place to open an office to see them. Things begin to fall together for her, including a very special friendship with Kurt that becomes something more. But his past military service, and the friends he’s made there, begin to cause problems for them both, as well as issues his drug-addicted sister delivers to his doorstep. He still hasn’t kicked his cancer, either, and Inessa wonders if falling in love with him is a blessing or a curse.

Book trailer here

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Do you pay the price for freedom? Or can you only afford a truce?

My Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers often deal with people who are victims/survivors of domestic abuse. I can write about those situations, because as a lawyer, I represented many of those people–both male and female. Most often, though, they are women. Women like the one in this article.

jelani I’ll never forget the one who came to every one of our Blossom “how to survive on your own” classes but refused the celebratory flowers we gave out at the end because she couldn’t take it home. He’d beat her for it. 

The legal system does feed into an abuser’s control. As lawyers, we could never promise that someone would be safe. Or that kids would be safe. The double-edged sword of knowing the kids were endangered but being too afraid to report it–and then have children’s services swoop down on you for failure to protect when you finally told someone.

It’s happening in your community right now, wherever you live. This writer tells the truth–I’ve seen many flavors of it. Read this. All of it. Then speak up for those who need help.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/removingthefigleaf/2016/08/i-let-my-husband-rape-me/