Meet Courtenay Schwartz, PES Attorney

Photo of a family with two adults, one of whom is holding a young child, and two additional children standing at a Christmas Tree farm on a partly sunny day with clouds in the sky.

Courtenay, tell us about yourself…

I grew up on a farm in Charlottesville, Virginia with a brother and a sister and lots of animals.  As an adult, I have lived in Washington, DC and in Richmond but I have recently returned to Charlottesville to raise my young family.  I have three children and we will be adding a fourth to our family in July.  In my free time, I love being with my children, reading and running.   

My advocacy work began as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where I became heavily involved in a student-led sexual and domestic violence advocacy group and later served as an intern at the University’s Women’s Center.  I continued my advocacy as a law student at Georgetown, where I focused my scholarship on girls in the juvenile justice system.  Recently, I worked as the client attorney for the Greater Richmond Regional Collaborative and I am very excited to return to this work as an attorney with the Project for the Empowerment of Survivors.  

What are you most looking forward to as you embark on your role as PES Attorney?

Working with and representing survivors in my role with the Greater Richmond Regional Collaborative, I was continuously struck by how disempowering and even dehumanizing the legal system can be, especially for those who have experienced trauma.  Survivors often find themselves enmeshed in legal proceedings that they do not understand and feel that they have little control over, which can cause considerable anxiety and can sometimes even retraumatize.  As an attorney with the PES, I am delighted to have the opportunity to empower survivors by helping them to understand the legal issues with which they are faced.  I am also very much excited to inject a little bit of humanity into our clients’ experiences with the legal system by providing trauma-informed legal advice which is sensitive to the personal stories that clients often share. 

What is one goal that you have during your first year as PES Attorney?

During my first year with the PES, I hope to expand my knowledge of the legal issues facing survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  I am also looking forward to building partnerships with attorneys around the state who are willing to work with our clients in a compassionate, trauma-informed manner.                 

If you were transported into a fictional world/universe, where would you go?

About ten years ago, I read Anna Karenina for the first time and discovered the abiding genius of Leo Tolstoy.  During quarantine, I took a deep dive into Tolstoy’s oeuvre and came to enjoy Resurrection more than any book I have ever read.  It’s a fascinating meditation on a society divided by an enormous gap between the haves and the have nots and on the dehumaninzing bureaucracies, particularly the justice system, which prop up this corrupt and cruel status quo.  While the worlds which Tolstoy creates are harsh and unjust, I would love to spend just a little bit of time in them, if only to gain a deeper understanding of his moral philosophy, and thereby hopefully gain insight into the inequalities and injustices of our own modern world.    

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