Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 27

B

efore Hardy Vieux became vice
president of Human Rights First, he
worked at Blank Rome LLP for a decade
as a senior associate and of counsel.

Though he focused on white-collar litigation,
he also did pro bono work for two years,
representing a teenage girl who'd suffered
tremendous domestic abuse and eventually
killed her mother.

FEATURE
During the initial months of that case, Vieux noticed drastic changes in
his demeanor. The self-described gregarious lawyer became noticeably
introverted. "There was a stretch when I avoided public contact. [My
client] had endured sexual assault by the principal of the prison school.
I became really angry at what he had done to her after she had endured
so much pain at the hands of her mother. I started lashing out at authority
figures," he recalls. "When people at my law firm told me to do things,
my attitude was, 'Who in the hell are you?'"

UNDERSTANDING VICARIOUS TRAUMA
Vieux was exhibiting signs of "compassion fatigue" - often called vicarious traumatization (VT) or secondary trauma stress (STS) - a condition
often affecting therapists who counsel survivors of traumas such as
domestic abuse, eviction, rape, persecution, family separation, incarceration, and divorce. Such stress also impacts many lawyers, particularly
those working in the public interest.
"Those are really hard jobs," attests Carrie Tiller, a clinical social worker
at Georgetown University Law Center. "As social workers, we are really
encouraged to engage in self-care. But I don't think a lot of lawyers are
encouraged to do the same.
"Working with kids is always hard. To see some of the complex trauma
that kids are going through in terms of their environment, their family life,
and the violence that they are witnessing is really traumatic. Some of
them have been dealing with complex trauma literally since the day they
were born. It's hard not to take that on, especially if that's all you're
dealing with."
Therapists and clinicians often use the terms VT and STS interchangeably;
however, there is a difference. VT refers to the negative shift in one's
world view that occurs after working with individuals who have experienced trauma, while STS is defined as "the natural consequent behaviors
and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatized event experienced by a significant other and the stress resulting from helping or
wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person." Service providers with
STS show symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Compounding Vieux's VT and STS was his visit to Haiti two weeks after
a massive earthquake in January 2010. There he saw extreme destruction
and loss of life, including the death of some family members. "As soon as
I got back to the United States, I felt like everything that we were doing
in America was trivial. Someone would say that their Wi-Fi was out, and
I was like, 'Do you know how many people died in Haiti?' I just totally marginalized other people's experiences because all the pain and suffering
I saw in Haiti couldn't possibly compare to what they were dealing with."
During that time, Vieux never heard about VT or STS, though he admits
he wasn't as self-aware as he is now. "Also, the pace at a big law firm had
a lot to do with me not being self-aware. I felt like I didn't have the luxury
to stop and parse through these emotionally taxing issues. I just had work
to do," he says.
Fortunately, Vieux sought professional help. His therapist determined
that he was experiencing STS. "She spotted the secondary trauma stress
I was having, then gave me an outlet to talk about it," he says. "She started
asking me questions that I ran away from at first. But she was pretty tenacious; my therapist would ask certain questions over and over again. That
created space for me to talk about it. And it helped me find my way back."

Illustrations by Amalia Restrepo

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 27



Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
The Opioid Litigation Wars
The Art Of Wellness: Law Firms Get Creative
Combating Secondary Trauma
Debating The Path Forward On Health Care Reform
Taking The Stand
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking Of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Special Section: Counting Down To The 2020 Conference
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 5
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - The Opioid Litigation Wars
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - The Art Of Wellness: Law Firms Get Creative
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Combating Secondary Trauma
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Debating The Path Forward On Health Care Reform
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Taking The Stand
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 44
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Speaking Of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Special Section: Counting Down To The 2020 Conference
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover4
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