Our legal system consistently fails adult survivors of child sex abuse who seek to hold their perpetrators accountable. At present, the legal process is heavily weighted against survivors in favor of their abusers. Through consulting, filmmaking, and lobbying, VERTIGO CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, LLC (VCF) seeks justice for survivors.
VALERIE GIBSON is VCF’s founder and CEO. As a result of her experience in trying to navigate the legal system, she became determined to change a system that too often protects perpetrators and revictimizes survivors. Ms. Gibson has become an advocate and activist for the cause of survivors’ legal rights. She has produced and/or directed two documentaries on the legal system’s handling of survivor cases. In addition, she has appeared on a number of media outlets to discuss survivors’ issues and has participated in film forums and discussion panels to address the need for education and training to improve the quality of justice for survivors.
NEIL JAFFEE is VCF’s legal counsel. He consults with survivors and their attorneys as to pending or prospective litigation. He also writes articles and blogs on the legal rights of adult survivors and has participated in panel discussions, film forums, and legal symposiums on that subject. He co-produced VCF’s two documentaries. Previously, Mr. Jaffee taught trial practice as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and the George Washington University School of Law, and appellate advocacy at the Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. He is a member of the National Crime Victim Bar Association and the National Alliance of Victims’ Rights Attorneys.
The mission of the VERTIGO CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, LLC is to help make justice a reality for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Our overarching goal is to eliminate the numerous ways in which the legal system discriminates against survivors at every stage – from initial reporting, to case-filing decisions by prosecutors and private attorneys, to the litigation of civil and criminal cases in our courts. Only by abolishing such inherently unfair practices will survivors obtain the fair path to justice they deserve.
We expose systemic inequalities, consult directly with survivors regarding their legal rights, and lobby for changes in laws that discriminate against survivors. We have made two award-winning documentaries addressing the fundamental flaws in the justice system’s disposition of survivor cases. Our films have been provided to legislators to support efforts to reform statutes of limitations and other unfair laws. We have screened our films at national legal conferences, law schools, colleges/universities, and for groups of government officials.
In addition to our filmmaking, we consult regularly with survivors about their legal rights and options. Where appropriate, we assist survivors in obtaining legal counsel and provide survivors with support as they go through the legal process.
We also have worked with other advocacy groups in lobbying state and federal legislators to enact legal reforms that provide survivors with a fair opportunity to obtain justice against their perpetrators. In 2015, VCF joined other advocacy organizations in forming a Coalition for a National Commission on Child Sex Abuse, which petitioned the Obama Administration to form a federal commission to study and address the child sex abuse epidemic in the United States.
Most recently, we have created an online system for survivors to anonymously and confidentially identify their abusers with an eye toward going public with their identifications if their abusers are identified by multiple survivors. The website for our abuser identification system is Me2csa.com.
VCF’s initial film project was the production of the documentary, Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice. The award-winning film was selected as an official entry by a number of film festivals throughout the country and has been screened at legal and victims’ rights national conferences.
The film centers on the plight of survivors who have sought legal redress against their abusers and the story is told in large part from the survivors’ perspectives. In their own words, the survivors describe in moving and explicit terms their personal journeys to obtain justice and the obstacles that blocked their paths. The film also features interviews with experts in the litigation of child sex abuse cases — police officials, prosecutors, private attorneys, and psychologists. The film breaks new ground by revealing the many injustices suffered by survivors and identifying what can be done to bring about necessary systemic changes.
Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice
Our second film, Off the Record: Justice Denied to Child Sex Abuse Survivors, was selected as an official entry by several film festivals and was given the 2017 Rosebud Award Best of Show at the Rosebud Film Festival in Arlington, Virginia.
The film presents the stories of three survivors, who describe their journeys through the legal system, in which matters that occurred off-the-record, that is, outside the courtroom, the case docket sheet, and the public eye, obstructed their paths to justice. The stories involve two criminal prosecutions in which the perpetrators cut deals that permitted them to plead guilty to lesser charges and to receive probationary sentences and a civil case that was ultimately dismissed without any adjudication of the perpetrators’ liability.
The film’s trailer is below with a link to the film’s website, Off The Record Film
We believe there is strength in numbers. Survivors are more likely to identify their abusers when multiple survivors name the same perpetrator. With that knowledge in mind, we have created #ME2CSA, which is a confidential and anonymous online system for identifying child sex abusers. The purpose of the system is to provide a safe and confidential method for survivors to identify their abusers.
#ME2CSA is an outgrowth of VERTIGO CHARITABLE FOUNDATION’s continuing efforts to empower survivors to come forward, be heard, and hold their abusers accountable. We will review the online identification forms submitted by survivors and develop a database of abusers’ personal information to determine whether a particular abuser has been named by more than one survivor. In that event, the survivors who identified that abuser will be notified and they will decide whether they want to make public the identifications of their abuser, either individually or collectively.
The website Me2csa.com contains more specific information explaining the identification process and provides access to the online form.