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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Intern Spotlight: Jennifer Kristiansen

December 03, 2014

Jennifer Kristiansen grew up in Cottage Grove, Oregon, a rural community just south of Eugene. Before law school, she was a technical, social media, and entertainment freelance writer, which made great use of her MA in Journalism from the University of Oregon but did not satisfy her need to help the community. As a 30-year-old single mother of two, Jennifer jumped into law school with both feet and is now finishing her final year of law school at Lewis & Clark. She is both excited and terrified at the prospect of entering the job market, but she knows that the skills and knowledge she has gained at NCVLI will be integrated into her work as an attorney and will benefit her clients and the community in immeasurable ways. 

Jennifer told us a little about her experience as an intern at NCVLI.

What did you know about victims’ rights before working at NCVLI?

I was a Clinic student at NCVLI spring term 2014, so I had a basic working knowledge of victim’s rights before my externship. Before the Clinic experience, I knew very very little about victim’s rights. I knew they had some rights, but not in what situations or what they were specifically, outside the evidence context (e.g. Rape Shield Rules) nor did I know much of anything about how they’re enforced and that sort of thing.  

What have you learned while working at NCVLI?

The easy answer is “I’ve learned about victims’ rights,” but the easy answer isn’t usually the right one (that’s one thing I’ve learned). Specifically, I’ve learned a lot about restitution, about the intersection between the constitutional rights of defendants (i.e. due process, equal protection, double jeopardy) and the rights of victims, and about victims’ rights in specific circumstances or in specific locations (e.g. what rights do victims of sexual assault have in Washington, D.C. if those victims are minors and want to seek medical treatment).

What did you do while working at NCVLI?

I wrote memos and practice management documents and took victim intakes and wrote case summaries and gathered news articles for the monthly Victims’ Rights Digest.

How has working at NCVLI impacted you?

I started law school knowing I wanted to work with underserved communities, specifically in family law. I also have a deep interest in working with legislators to, among other things, strengthen statutory protections for DV victims. Working at NCVLI has showed me how much overlap there is between various areas of law, and has given me a firm understanding of victims’ rights in all kinds of other contexts, especially family law and tenants’ rights law. Specifically, I was able to use my knowledge of the rights of sexual assault victims in housing when representing a client at the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, to make a stronger case for her against her landlord.

What did you like most about working at NCVLI?

I loved how challenging it was - not just the subject matter, but the level of work that was expected of me. The amount of support and guidance was incredible, and always there when I needed it, but I was expected to hit the ground running from day one and not need to have someone hold my hand through a complicated memo or research project. I really appreciated that level of confidence in my ability and that level of respect from attorneys that I have come to look up to as mentors and role models.

Was there anything you didn’t like about working at NCVLI?

Sometimes the cases that I had to read were really sad - child abuse, DV, etc. - and the outcomes weren’t always what I saw as just or fair. It’s really easy for me to get angry at judges when they reverse sentences for defendants because of a procedural interpretation that ignores the impact that another trial would have on the victim(s). It’s also really hard when we have a victim who needs help of one sort or another and either we don’t get a response from an attorney or the help they need is outside our scope and I have to be the one to deliver the bad news. I ate a lot of chocolate on those days.