When Takisha Richardson first sat down with a 13-year-old Palm Beach County girl whose mother’s boyfriend was charged with molesting her, the attorney was met with silence.
“She was nonverbal,” said Richardson, who was a special victims unit prosecutor at the time. “She wasn’t communicating anymore. Our initial discussions had to take place via notes.”
Richardson knew her job wasn’t just about putting the man behind bars. She wanted to make sure the young girl found her voice and became her own advocate.
So the prosecutor began visiting the teenager’s home off the clock, sitting in her room and speaking to her or chatting with the godmother the girl admired.
“That grew into her then texting me, and we started developing the relationship more from there,” Richardson said. “Letting her know that I wasn’t just her lawyer from 8 to 5 … the relationship was more than that.”
When it came time for the girl to testify at trial, she spoke “bravely and succinctly and clearly,” Richardson said. The man received a 45-year prison sentence.
Helping sexual abuse survivors find strength is what drove Richardson as chief of the special victims unit at the Palm Beach state attorney’s office, and it’s what drove her to move into private practice last month.
Richardson joined the Palm Beach Gardens office of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, a 90-attorney plaintiffs firm with a team focused on sexual violence litigation, to make a difference beyond county lines and to help families win often much-needed financial remedies.
“My one life goal is to change the stigma associated with sexual abuse and make it more a victim-centered view instead of a victim-blaming view,” she said.
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