This Lawyer is Advocating for Domestic Violence Survivors

James “Jimmy” Champlin is a legal aid attorney who is dedicating his work to serving survivors of domestic abuse in Chicago, IL. “A lot of people think of domestic violence as a women’s issue — and I think that’s really destructive. It’s not just a women’s issue,” he explains.

Video Transcript

James Champlin: Earlier this week, a woman came in to our office. We’ll call her Jane. She had just come off the worst weekend of her life. Her boyfriend had gotten physically abusive over the weekend. He had hit her, he had strangled her, and the kids were there for it. By the time she came to us, she was barely holding it together.

Jimmy is a legal aid attorney. He serves survivors of domestic abuse in Chicago, IL.

James Champlin: It’s really hard to listen to someone who is describing decades of abuse. I mean, this could be physical abuse, and sexual abuse, control. It’s impossible not to take some of that home with you.

The Domestic Violence Legal Clinic provides free legal assistance to low income survivors of abuse.

Less than 1% of all United States lawyers work in legal aid.

James Champlin: Well, I watched a lot of Law & Order growing up. What I thought of as being a lawyer, you know, being that guy who’s got on the sharp suit and the cool tie. You know, you go in and get into an argument with the judge.

What I realized is that what I enjoy more is the time that it takes sitting with my clients and talking about what’s going on and giving them a chance to tell their story.

Most of the people that I work with, they leave with something in place. If someone comes to me and she’s worried that when she goes home, her husband might assault her, she’s going to leave our office with an order of protection that says that he is not allowed to come near her.

You know, a lot of people think of domestic violence as a women’s issue, and I think that that’s really destructive. It’s not just a women’s issue. Survivors of domestic violence come from every gender background, every racial background, every religious background. It’s all of us. If we’re looking at it as men are harming women, isn’t that a men’s issue that we need to make sure that we’re better?

You know, you try to see yourself in other people, you try to see Christ in other people just to remember that it’s someone who’s been through a lot. It kind of helps to take that step back and to say, “Okay, how do I find Christ in this person?” We’re helping people, you know, because that’s what we’re called to do.

I think that what it’s emphasized for me is the need to be there for each other as husband and wife.

Jimmy and Sarah were married in 2016.

James Champlin: When I’m at work, I see people who don’t have that person to go to, that person who gives them that sense of stability, that sense of being centered. I think what it makes me, it’s made me more patient. I think it’s helped us both, because both of us know how important it is to have that person, so it helps us both be there for each other in that same way.

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