June 10, 2016

Changing laws for sexual assault victims

Jacqueline Swanson ’13 is using her law degree exactly how she intended

A woman is sexually assaulted as she lays unconscious near a dumpster. The assailant is caught, but given a shockingly light sentence by a sympathetic (to the accused) judge. The nation is outraged by the “Stanford rape case”, but Lewis & Clark Law School alumna Jacqueline Swanson ’13, isn’t surprised. It is the same outrage and injustice that drives Swanson to change laws related to sexual assault victims.

It is also what drew her to study law at Lewis & Clark, home of the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI), an organization whose mission is to protect, enforce and and advance crime victims’ rights. NCVLI just hosted its 15th annual Crime Victim Law Conference at the law school June 10-11. The conference is the only one in the nation that focuses on victims rights enforcement in criminal cases.

Swanson grew up advocating on behalf of women and is now quickly shaping changes in laws related specifically to rape and sexual assault victims. She is featured in a story in the Oregonian highlighting the progress she has already made in the short time since she graduated law school.

The feature begins, “Portland attorney Jacqueline Swanson has a little black book she’s using to take on the patriarchy. Her little black book doesn’t list phone numbers. It lists the problems of a justice system that consistently fails victims of sexual assault, and the ways she intends to change it.”

Among many other accomplishments, Swanson has written at least three victim advocacy laws that have been passed in Oregon. She is also working on a federal survivors’ rights bill and on policy that would ban NCAA athletes who commit violent crimes.

In 2011, Swanson was honored as NCVLI’s Outstanding Volunteer for her work as an intern with the Violence Against Women Project. She presented at NCVLI’s 10th Conference, after just finishing her 1L year. In April of this year, she received the Sparks of Hope Advocacy Award. Swanson currently works as an attorney with Crew Janci LLP, a firm that represents adult survivors of sexual abuse in civil litigation. Swanson’s crime victim work is done pro bono.