My grandfather used to tell me, “Sometimes you need to buy the hat.” Then he would slip me a $20.00 bill. As a poor college student, I appreciated the money. But I didn’t really understand his purpose. After all, this was the 1980s and hats were not really a thing, except the occasional raspberry beret.
Now, I think he meant that sometimes you need to follow your gut. Even if, at the time, it might seem extravagant or risky.
With the launch of Koller Trial Law, I’ve been thinking about my grandfather and his sayings quite a bit. Actually, both of my grandfathers were small business owners. One was a butcher in a coal mining town in West Virginia; one sold parts to oil men in Oklahoma. They too took risks to establish businesses that served their communities.
I am taking the risk of launching this law firm because I see a need in our community. The #MeToo movement has highlighted a longstanding and deeply ingrained societal problem. While the headline-generating spotlight has focused on Hollywood and Washington D.C., the reality is that many normal, everyday people have experienced sexual abuse, assault, harassment, cyber bullying, and a litany of other harms. While our attention is diverted by the latest national scandal, Oklahoma has plenty of this behavior going on right here and now.
Reported rape or attempted rape in Oklahoma has been 35-45 percent higher than the national rate for the last decade. Over 34,000 confirmed reports of child abuse and neglect occurred in Oklahoma in 2016. Physical and sexual assault and abuse is a widespread problem. The consequences of victimization are surprising. A foundational study was done in the late 1990s that demonstrated that childhood exposure to a small number of risk factors – with physical and sexual abuse being high on the list – leads to significantly increased risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, smoking, obesity, and several chronic adult diseases. Want to know why Oklahoma has the highest rate of female incarceration? Childhood physical and sexual abuse is a large part of that answer.
As much as I would like to have bulletproof bracelets, I am not Superwoman. This is a statewide problem that needs statewide solutions. But my purpose can be a small part of that solution. The good news is that the rate of sexual abuse and assault appears to be declining nationally. Certainly, one reason for that is the increased attention the media has paid and with it the increased willingness to talk about the problem. Encouraging victims to utilize the civil justice system is one small part of a solution.
I have worked with enough victims and survivors to have a sense of their needs and a strong sense of purpose in helping them. Through years of trying all kinds of cases for all kinds of people, I am confident that I can help victims and survivors find their voice and tell their story in a courtroom. Collaborative work with other lawyers has been a joy to me and has kept me interested and motivated at a time in life when I see some others facing fatigue and burnout.
I relish the challenges and opportunities ahead. I hope to provide a service to our community that is needed and necessary. And I hope that you, dear reader, have found your passion in life and make the decision to fully pursue it. After all, sometimes you need to buy the hat.