The Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) has served over 1500 survivors of sexual assault. None of those survivors would have been served without SALI’s wonderful staff. The memories of some of the former and current staff are below.
SALI's first paralegal /advocate
I remember the first time I walked into the law office of the Sexual Assault Legal Institute and said to myself, "Now the victims of sexual assault in Maryland have a voice, someone to fight for their rights.” That was the most incredible moment of my life, I knew at that moment we were about to embark on making positive changes for victims of sexual assault.
Ellen C. Opdyke, Esquire
Former SALI Managing Attorney, currently a Supervising Attorney at DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP)
When I discovered SALI, and realized how unique it is, I was thrilled. As a former rape crisis counselor, I was interested in exploring the legal side of sexual assault. My internship at SALI during the summer of 2007 was also my first experience with direct legal services, and confirmed my suspicion that this was what I wanted
to do. While studying for the bar, I received the phone call that any hopeful non-profit lawyer dreams of – a job offer. To be able to start my career in a job I actually wanted
was a dream come true. I started at SALI as a full time employee in September, 2008, and was there until February, 2013. The opportunities and experiences I had at SALI were exceptional and made me the skilled lawyer and zealous advocate for survivors I am today. I doubt I could have had those experiences anywhere else. I am, and will always be, incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve an organization doing the important work that SALI does.
April R. Randall, Esquire
Former SALI staff attorney and current MCASA board member
My first encounter with SALI occurred while working as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Sherrie L. Krauser (retired), Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland. I recall observing the SALI attorneys in court, advocating zealously for their clients, and thinking to myself, “That is what I should be doing with my legal training at the end of my clerkship.” Joining SALI as a Staff Attorney was one of the best decisions that I have made.
I knew I made the right decision while working on one of my first cases, which involved a teenage girl who was assaulted by a classmate on school grounds. My client, unlike the perpetrator, was expelled from school. It was my mission to encourage the school board to change its decision and put measures in place to assure my client’s safety. This case along with the other cases I worked on propelled me to continue to advocate on behalf of survivors.
Since leaving SALI, my passion and desire to advocate on behalf of survivors has not waned. I will forever support MCASA and SALI as well as advocate on behalf of survivors. I am honored to have been a part of SALI’s legacy and am looking forward to working it and MCASA in the future.
Former SALI Advocate, currently Court Liaison for Hispanic Services at Circuit Court for Prince George's County
Thank you SALI and MCASA for giving me the great opportunity to work in the capacity of Legal Advocate and with my bilingual (English and Spanish) language skills I was helping, assisting and advocating for victims and survivors of sexual assault. I learned that sexual assault can happen to anyone and that the perpetrator can be just about anyone as well; even though, most perpetrators know the victim. I learned that men of color can also be advocates for victims and survivors of sexual assault and I am so glad that I worked for SALI. I definitely gained valuable skills and knowledge that I continue to use to help others in our communities.
Brittany Hicar Asmus, JD
Former SALI paralegal/advocate and recently admitted lawyer, currently working at Zeigler & Associates PC
I worked for SALI for two years as a Paralegal. At SALI, I gained lasting relationships with coworkers and a passion for the law. I left SALI only to pursue a legal education and to become a stronger advocate. Since my departure, I graduated from the University of Toledo College of Law and just received news I passed the Michigan bar exam. Thanks to SALI, my mentors, and our inspirational clients, I look forward to a legal career enabling me with the skills, passion, and determination to advocate for others. Congratulations SALI on ten inspirational years and thank you.
Artemis Moutsatsos, Assistant State’s Attorney
SALI's first staff attorney, currently an Assistant State's Attorney for Prince George's County prosecuting sex crimes and child abuse
Working at SALI, remains the single most rewarding job I have ever had. It has helped me become the attorney I am today. I am always reminded of how survivors would complain of how the criminal justice system had treated them, and I take that into account when dealing with victims/survivors in my current position as a prosecutor of sex and child abuse crimes. SALI is an essential organization that assist victims and survivors in all aspects of the legal system. I am proud to have been a part of that. I will always hold SALI and the survivors I had the pleasure of working with close to my heart.
L. Michelle Thompson, Esquire
First attorney to practice under SALI's Crime Survivor's Initiative, currently an attorney representing victims of domestic violence in Minnesota
I remember SALI as a place where victims of sexual assaults had a voice. As the first attorney to practice under SALI's Crime Survivor's Initiative, I had a unique role and opportunity to represent victims of sexual assault throughout the criminal justice process. In some cases the victim's wishes and concerns aligned with the police and prosecution and my job as the victims’' attorney was straightforward but nevertheless extremely important to the victim. I remember one such case where a young college student had recently reported sexual abuse at the hands of her step-father that had occurred over ten years prior. She wanted him prosecuted even if that meant testifying. There was a great prosecutor on her case who really took her wishes too heart. Unfortunately, her mother was not as supportive. She had been encouraged not to report for a long time; she was distrusting. She wanted an attorney who worked for her and she got one through the CSI program. I will never forget waiting for the verdict at the courthouse for her so that she could attend to her college finals. He was convicted and she aced her finals. On the other end of the spectrum were the cases where I had to argue, negotiate, and downright fight at times with law enforcement or the prosecutor's office every step of the way. Unfortunately, there were many more of these cases. Some were more successful than others but in all of them the victim's voice was heard - loud and clear - and that is what they wanted anyway.
Former SALI Advocate, current shelter coordinator at Families in Crisis, Texas, and law school applicant
When I first read about the Sexual Assault Legal Institute, I was immediately amazed to learn of the valuable services that the agency provides. As a committed advocate for survivors of sexual assault with an interest in legal services, I was beyond thrilled to be offered an internship and later a job as a legal advocate with SALI. During my time there, I worked alongside talented individuals who consistently displayed a strong sense of dedication to their work, and I felt grateful to contribute to an agency with a mission that I sincerely admired. SALI empowers survivors of sexual violence by providing a safe space to share their stories and, perhaps most importantly, standing up for their rights so that they may gain some sense of justice. My appreciation for SALI’s mission and services has only continued to grow over time, and I am profoundly honored to have been a part of such an exceptional agency.
Robyn E. Dunlap, Esquire
Former SALI staff attorney, now with her own firm, the Law Offices of Robyn E. Dunlap
A woman called SALI because her son had been molested by his father and she needed help. Trial was to take place in a matter of months and the perpetrator wanted custody. The woman could not afford a lawyer. The father, son of one of the most prominent legal figures in the community, hired the best attorneys and experts that money could buy. The woman was at risk of losing custody of her son. Unfazed by the challenge, SALI took the case and poured countless hours, sweat, and tears, into protecting this family from a predator. The woman won her case and the child was protected. As trial ended, father of the perpetrator, the well-known legal figure, was heard saying, “Where did those hot shot attorneys come from?”
We came from SALI. SALI – making hot shot attorneys for the last ten years.
Lisae C. Jordan, Esquire
SALI Founder and MCASA Executive Director & Counsel
The very first thing we did at SALI was represent a survivor. She was a college student who had been sexually assaulted by a classmate. She didn’t speak much English and was so scared. She wanted a Peace Order to keep the assailant away from her. We didn’t have an office yet, but we had a lawyer with malpractice insurance, and we got her an order to help keep her safe. SALI still puts sexual assault survivors first. It’s an honor to provide legal services to survivors and help ensure they have access to justice.
This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Frontline.