Understanding Sexual Abuse – Books, Experience, and Listening to our Clients

Understanding sexual abuse is hard. And who wants to try? Sexual abuse is not a subject anyone wants to think about, let alone read about and study. But our clients live with the sexual abuse they went through when they were kids, or sexual assault as adults, so Ashley and I try to learn as much as we can.


One of our favorite lawyer friends just gifted us her library of sex abuse books. She is “semi retiring” and wanted her books to go to a good home. We appreciate them! Many of the books are about abuse in the Catholic Church. But there are several books about sexual abuse of children in other churches, at school, and by trusted adults. There are also books about sexual assault of adults by therapists, in the military, and of the elderly.


There is a goldmine of knowledge in these boxes. Just glancing through, I see titles by leading thinkers in the field, including several we have worked with as experts witnesses in our cases. Richard Sipe, for example, wrote Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis. He was the country’s foremost authority on the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Richard was an expert witness for us in several early cases and helped us our own understanding of sexual abuse in the Church.

Fr. Tom Doyle is another leading expert on the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Tom brings an insider’s perspective because he is a former Catholic priest with a doctorate degree in canon law. He wrote Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse. His book and his vast knowledge have been invaluable to us in understanding sexual abuse in the Church. He has been an expert witness for us in several Catholic cases.


Ashley and I try to learn the best ways to help our clients. This means reading about how childhood trauma affects adults. It means reading about the history of abuse and cover up in organizations like the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and private schools. It means reading about how trusted individuals like therapists, teachers, coaches, and clergy can manipulate the trust people have for them to violate those intimate relationships, with children and adults.

It’s not easy reading. But better understanding sexual abuse helps us help our clients. Not only by filing lawsuits for them, although that is our main tool. Lawsuits are not always available as an option and not always a good idea. But the more we understand, the more we can talk to our clients. More important, the more we understand, the more we can listen to our clients.

I better get these books shelved and get back to work.

If you were sexually abused or assaulted and have questions about your legal options, contact us through our confidential contact page or call us at 503-616-5007.

Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn

Gilion Dumas & Ashley Vaughn

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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