Wilbanks CEASE Clinic successfully advocates for client
Eight years after opening its doors in January 2016, the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic – the first of its kind in the nation – has served more than 200 survivors of child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
Founded with the generous support of 1986 alumnus Marlan B. Wilbanks to represent survivors of child sexual abuse during a two-year retroactive civil statute of limitations allowing previously barred claims against perpetrators, the clinic has since expanded its work to represent survivors across the sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.
Under the direction of Emma Hetherington (J.D.’11), the clinic continues to represent survivors in civil lawsuits but also represents survivors in juvenile court foster care dependency cases and post-conviction vacatur and record restriction matters.
“Our work highlights the importance of statute of limitations and other legislative reforms that increase survivor access to justice,” Hetherington said.
In April, Staff Attorney Brian Atkinson (J.D.’13) and second-year student Jessica L. Davis secured a $1.1 million verdict for their client after a three-day trial in Rockdale County, Georgia. Filed minutes before the Hidden Predator Act of 2015’s retroactive active window closed on June 30, 2017, the clinic’s representation demonstrates the opportunity that civil lawsuits provide to survivors for justice and healing.
“Despite the fact that the abuse occurred nearly 40 years ago, the trial court found that the defendant, who was the step-parent of the survivor, committed acts of child molestation to, with and in the presence of the client, demonstrating the power of survivor voices and the importance of quality legal representation,” Hetherington said.
As part of its mission to provide training and technical assistance to attorneys and advocates working with survivors, the clinic hosted its annual conference in the spring, focusing on therapeutic justice. The two-day conference consisted of a full day of training on trust-based relational intervention for those working with survivors in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems as well as a day of discussions centering on the meaning of therapeutic justice in its various forms within the broader justice system. Day one speakers were Daren Jones, Kari Dady and Kimberly Glaudy of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, while the second day featured Kathryn Rob of Child USAdvocacy, who presented the keynote address.
In recognition of its work, the Wilbanks CEASE Clinic received funding for the second year in a row from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council under Georgia’s Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children grant. The purpose of the $72,000 award is to strengthen the state’s response against the commercial and sexual exploitation of children.
The clinic was also awarded an additional $75,900 as a subgrantee of CJCC under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Grant Program for Minor Human Trafficking Services and Training to provide community-based follow up and aftercare services for survivors.
As a result of this funding, the clinic has hired a full-time licensed social worker to ensure interdisciplinary representation of survivors and partnered with the state of Georgia’s first and only juvenile treatment court for survivors of the commercial and sexual exploitation of children to provide direct representation to survivors and assist with program development.
Pictured at the top of the page in front of the Rockdale County Courthouse are: (l. to r.) Clinic Fellow Grace Ann Calfee, Social Work Advocate Jocelyn Crumpton, Davis, Atkinson and Clinic Director Emma Hetherington (J.D.’11).