Representing Adult Victims of Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence: Duty of Competence

(371 Ratings)

Produced on: March 13, 2018

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 61 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Trauma victims present a number of characteristics that result from their trauma. This includes PTSD with all its plethora of symptoms, as well as the effects of gaslighting and trauma bonding. Understanding these characteristics is critical to understanding how victims view the world and interact with others, including their lawyers. It is also important because victims of trauma will present cognitive, logistical, and communication challenges. However, as attorney Maria-Vittoria Carminati notes in this important program, ignoring, not understanding, or mishandling these issues can result in lawyers failing in their duty of competence.

A lawyer has a duty of competence, at all times and regardless of who the client is. If the lawyer does not fully comprehend why the client-victim is behaving in certain ways, they may fail in their duty of competence. Ways to do this would be to be impatient, impose too onerous burdens, or failing to accommodate the client’s well-grounded needs. Communication can also a challenge because of trauma victims’ various behaviors. Although victims of trauma can be challenging clients, they are also among the most deserving of legal services and most in need of strong advocates who will compassionately and fiercely stand up for them. As a result, lawyers should endeavor to learn how to be better lawyers for them and help them in their times of need.  

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify what the manifestation of domestic violence and sexual assault can be in an adult victim
  2. Grasp the effects of trauma resulting from domestic violence and sexual assault on adult victims
  3. Address the way that trauma affects a victim’s interactions with the legal process and the victim’s lawyer
  4. Discuss how those interactions can pose a challenge to competently representing a client
  5. Develop techniques to use to address those challenges while showing adequate sensitivity to the victim’s state of mind and pathology


Giugi Carminati

Carminati Law PLLC

Giugi Carminati is a litigator and intersectional feminist advocate. She represents women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in their personal and professional lives. She practices in state and federal courts in Texas, New York, and Colorado. From commercial litigation to family law and civil protection orders, she brings firm but compassionate legal advocacy for her clients. She speaks French, English, Italian and Spanish.


Jennifer H.

Thought she was very knowledgeable and enjoyed her presentation.

Maxwelle S.

The presenter was wonderful - knowledgeable and empathetic (which was helpful given the topic)

Kelci B.

The presenter was very very good and informative.

Michael C.

One of the best CLE courses in years.

Samuel S.

Great presentation.

Anne T.

I do policy work and although I do not have clients, this was very informative and I liked going through the statutory definitions.

Josh N.

Extremely well presented, helpful and most informmative

Linda W.

Giuigi's presentation was one of the best I have seen!

Mark B.

Excellent presentation. Great insight.

Joi G.

really great

Melvin P.

Dear Ms. Carminati, I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for your excellent CLE on Lawline on the topic of representing victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. We represent many domestic violence victims in our family law practice here in Mississippi. Although I hope that we already follow much of your practical advice at our firm, it was very powerful and useful hearing you lay out best practices for competently representing domestic violence victims. I certainly have experienced with my clients many of the client behaviors that make working in this space so challenging. Again, thanks for making such a terrific CLE. All lawyers who practice family law should watch it.

Daniel G.

Speaker was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the topic.

Robert B.


Paula N.

Very interesting topic. Excellent presentation.

Cynthia K.

This was excellent. One of the best courses I've taken.

Dorian H.

Excellent presentation. Thank you.

Barbara A.

Great program, very informative, I really enjoyed it!

Penni C.

Excellent speaker with great advice.

Kevin C.

Well done. I’m glad I selected this course.

Bill S.

This was one of the most powerful and helpful CLEs that I have experienced in 25 years.

Ashley H.

Wonderful material!

jerry s.


Edward C.

Very knowledgeable presenter who offered insights into a world I hadn't understood.

Timothy S.


Stephanie M.

Very knowledgeable and compassionate advocate. Well done!

Karin I.

Very thoughtful and useful presentation.

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