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Post by: Abbey Hayes

The Power of Legal Advocacy

My name is Abbey Hayes and I am a 1L at Regent University School of Law. I recently joined the Center for Global Justice Student Staff, and I am thrilled to combine my passion for global justice with legal research.

After learning about the work of the Center, I knew I wanted to attend Regent. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to serve overseas and advocate for the voiceless. Although I always had this desire, I did not know how I could effectively serve those in need. It was only after my time in Northern Uganda that I realized the power of legal advocacy.

The Power of Legal Advocacy

Before attending law school, I worked for Freedom 4/24, a non-profit organization that brings freedom and justice to victims and survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. My work took me to a safe house in Gulu, Uganda. I will never forget holding the hand of a 14-year-old girl named Innocent, who shared her story of being sold into child marriage at age twelve. Each day, she was abused by her “husband” and reminded that her mother had chosen to sell her to an evil man. During the abuse, she became pregnant, and she wept as she walked me through the process of burying her still-born daughter at age thirteen.

Then, I met Harriet, who was gang-raped every day on the way to school for a year. I listened to her parents’ agony as they explained that they had given all of their money to their daughter’s attorney but found out that they could not press any charges because the perpetrator “paid off” the judge. I heard countless stories, all with different heartbreaking details but ending with the same injustice.

I was horrified and could not believe such injustice existed while I lived a joyful, safe life in America. It occurred to me that many Ugandan girls did not have faith in the criminal justice system to take a stand against their perpetrators. Although child marriage had been made illegal in Uganda for many years, teenage girls were still sold every day, and the government did not have the capacity to stop it. I spoke with a city leader about how this problem could be solved and he answered simply, “The law. We have to change the law and make people aware of the law.” At that moment, I knew I had no other choice but to be a legal advocate for those in need.

It could not be more fitting that my research project for the Center is for International Justice Mission Africa. I am honored to work for a country that my heart adores and for an organization that I admire. My experiences with Innocent, Harriet, and all of the brave girls at the safe home will fuel my passion through this project. I am thankful that working for the Center for Global Justice allows me to leverage my education to help those in need, and I cannot wait to learn more.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.