From the March 2005 Idaho Observer:
Is the legal system doing you in?
Do something about it.
It happens to almost every person forced to spend all their waking moments and their life savings to defend their innocence in courts determined to use the system to take their property, their children, their business or their freedom: They become obsessed, paranoid, manic, depressed and even suicidal. Long term relationships and careers suffer, addictions develop and health fails. We call this cluster of symptoms "legal abuse syndrome (LAS)." Since the cause of this "illness" (corrupt officers of judicial proceedings) is known, the cure is within our reach. Karin Huffer of Redress, Inc., has developed a proactive program to address the nation’s LAS epidemic by helping LAS sufferers to reclaim their rational minds and put their broken lives back together. Once legally traumatized individuals regain their composure, bad experiences with the court system no longer evoke feelings of impotence and frustration; they become foundations of knowledge and sources of inspiration.
by Redress, Inc.
On a chilly fall evening, Eve’s doorway to her warm living room is crossed by Bette carrying a "Harvey Wallbanger" cake. The 10 women and two men who meet each week take turns bringing, not only a favorite dessert, but also 13 copies of the recipe. It sounds like any enjoyable social evening a group of friends might share. This group, however, comes together after being economically and emotionally devastated by the legal system. They come together because it is all they can think of left to do in response to the failure of American justice.
During this evening the members of the group will share news of their recent legal encounters, their feelings, challenges they face and their progress. They find that this is the only place they can truly share their troubles in a therapeutic environment provided by Eve who guides them according to the protocols of Karin Huffer’s book and course, "Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome."
Eve’s goal is to help litigants and witnesses by trying to keep them from succumbing to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as a secondary trauma from their court experiences. If they already suffer the symptoms, the eight steps help give relief and healing. Eve has been trained to know when to refer to a mental or other health professional. Eve is a Certified Peer Counselor for Psycholegal Trauma. She functions under the guidance of Karin Huffer, M.S., M.F.T.
The participants work steadily through eight steps of healing for about 12 weeks. Every meeting, they first follow a therapeutic guided process for an hour or more. Then the group takes a dessert break, followed by skill sharing in addressing their legal cases. Each contributes to the skill pool according to talent and strength. Research, typing, organization and indexing, advocacy; whatever needs to be done, gets done by helping each other. The profound stress of working on one’s own case with constant traumatic reminders is relieved. Some litigants lose memory from the impact of the trauma which seriously impedes their progress when they must do their legal work pro se. Without the group some members could not perform their tasks and would be withdrawn into traumatic stress, setting them up for further injustice and often winding up in physical illness.
Help for disillusioned and isolated litigants is desperately needed. Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder have become a national public health crisis. Americans across the board report feeling helpless and hopeless as citizens. When the court system does them in, many suffer Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), called legal abuse syndrome when it is caused by the legal system. The litigant is not crazy. Their PTSD is a normal response to abnormal and outrageous circumstances. Litigants go to court for a reasonable solution to a critical life issue. When they end up broke, in debt, and abandoned, or worse, assaulted by the system their tax dollars support, where can they turn? Karin Huffer dreams of a day when psycholegal groups such as Eve’s will be functioning in every community.
"Fill out the questionnaire," Eve directed the group members. For the past 12 years, Karin Huffer has been conducting longitudinal research through a probative questionnaire filled out by those who suffer from legal abuse syndrome. The goal is to generate a huge volume of data that, when compiled, cannot help but impact decision-makers who are in a position to improve the system. Eve is a crucial part of effectively researching ways to confront this unwieldy, loveless, power-driven social problem.
Bette, who has not been allowed to have contact with her daughter for five years, legally struggles against her politically powerful ex-husband. She feels that her life has been put on hold for five years and that she was among the living dead until Eve came into her life. She hugs Eve as she exits from the warm living room back into the chilly fall air. Her rational universe now is limited to a group of 12 people and a caring group leader. This universe makes sense, encourages hope, inspires her toward good health habits, reminds her to eat and sleep, helps her to produce good work, has awakened her heart and brought her out of isolation. Twelve people have become her lifeline to the future that she prays will include a life with her daughter.
These groups function on a basis of fairness and team effort to help each other not only survive but succeed. Many charge a fee for the evening such as $50 that is divided among the group members. Some have worked together creatively and accomplished adventures worthy of a movie script.
Becoming a peer counselor is done at home with no time restriction. Karin Huffer and staff always stand by to assist their counselors. They are also available to help promote to fill groups through radio appearances, press releases, and other supportive marketing help. Thousands of groups, loosely linked in most communities across the nation will make the difference.
Redress, Inc., a nonprofit organization which advocates for victims of injustice (see www.redressinc.org) is engaged in a national study on Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS) on behalf of study author Karin Huffer, MS/MFT. Huffer is also the author of, "Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome" which can be found online at www.legalabusesyndrome.org
Your willingness to participate in this important national study is sincerely appreciated.
Please email Redress, Inc. at REDRESS2@redressinc.org and state "Study Participant" in the Subject line. We will then email you a copy of the LAS questionnaire. When you receive it, you may either download it into a word processing document, complete it and send back the new document, or you can also use the "Edit" "Select all" and "Reply" feature on your computer. The second method will allow you to write your responses directly into the email and return it to us electronically.
If you have any questions regarding the questionnaire, you may call us at 702-597-2982. For those needing the actual assistance of Ms. Huffer, call or email for her phone number.
Note: Wrongfully and maliciously convicted prisoners are encouraged to participate in this survey. Request that someone on the outside with access to an online computer forward a copy of the questionnaire to you. Send the completed form to Redress, Inc. PO Box 14381, Las Vegas, NV 89114.