Today we’d like to introduce you to Christy Heiskala.
Christy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2007, my daughter was molested by her third-grade teacher. In the eight years that followed, I became my daughter’s best advocate and navigated a complex criminal case, a lengthy civil trial against the school district for negligence, and two subsequent appeals which resulted in a precedent-setting, published opinion by the California Court of Appeal. I emerged from the experience determined to make a measurable impact in reducing child abuse and sexual assault through training, speaking up, and taking action on behalf of victims and their families.
I wrote a book and starting blogging about our experience. I spoke at conferences and events to educate parents. I received numerous phone calls, emails and friends referring friends. Parents would tell me their child had been abused and they were seeking advice on what to do. Young women would call me and tell me they had been assaulted. I realized there were so many people out there who were staying silent because they didn’t have anyone to turn to. I decided to leave my 24-year career behind and dedicate my life to advocating for victims and teaching child sexual abuse prevention.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a pioneer in any field is difficult but even more so in the legal industry. Although there is a huge need for victim advocate services in civil litigation, the target market – victims and lawyers – have yet to realize there is a solution available.
Victim advocates have never existed in civil litigation. Groundbreaking work requires opening peoples minds to a new way of thinking and that takes time. I have been doing this for three years now and I am finally gaining traction with local civil attorneys. I hope to pave the way for future victim advocates to work with all civil attorneys in all personal injury, sexual abuse, assault, and harassment cases. When I began teaching child sexual abuse prevention, I thought that would be easy.
There are over a thousand schools in San Diego County alone and probably the same number of youth-serving organizations. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to convince them they need this training that addresses the #1 safety threat to kids. The #MeToo movement has helped to convince organizations this problem is pandemic and can be prevented through education.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Advocate for Victims story. Tell us more about the business.
There are two main components to my business – victim advocacy and education:
As a certified victim advocate, I work with victims of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment to help them reclaim their power. I have worked with over 60 victims to help them navigate their personal path forward. I match them to the resources they need to heal, move forward, be heard, and/or seek justice. I am there to walk with them every step of the process.
I work directly with victims and their families or as a part of their legal team, working in consort with their attorney. I help civil attorneys build a stronger plaintiff while they build a stronger case. Victims receive trauma-informed support from someone who speaks their language, not legalese. Civil attorneys can rely on me to provide consulting from a victim/plaintiff perspective. In addition to my training, I bring my personal experience of navigating the criminal and civil justice systems for eight years.
No matter how many cases a civil attorney has had, odds are they have not been a victim/plaintiff and cannot offer their clients the empathy of having been in their shoes and made it to the other side. I also provide trauma-informed coaching working with victims to move forward and release the trauma through different modalities.
To prevent future victims, I educate and train parents, schools, churches, and youth-serving organizations how to prevent child sexual abuse, assault, harassment, human trafficking, bystander intervention, and internet safety. I am unique in that I am working on the full-cycle of abuse, from prevention to surviving, thriving, and seeking justice.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe luck has played any role in my life or business. I am where I am personally and professionally through true grit, tenacity, and the desire to serve and make a measurable difference.
- Website: https://www.advocateforvictims.com/
- Phone: 760-685-6232
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cheiskala
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/advocateforvictims
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/advocate4victim
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/educate-to-eliminate-san-diego
- Other: http://www.educatetoeliminate.com/