tw for: mention of sexual assault, harrassment, and violence against women
The further I got into Nobody’s Victim, the more I associated the word “badass” with author (and lawyer extraordinaire) Carrie Goldberg. My forays into the literary realm of nonfiction are few and far between—I tend to be extremely picky about topic and author—but I was given this book as an assignment with my internship to better understand the voice that the agency was looking for in nonfiction pieces.
From page one, I was hooked. Goldberg’s voice* is stark and angry, and she has every right to be. Goldberg focuses her work on victims of the most heinous (yet somehow legal) crimes. Her clients embody a huge swath of women: rich and poor, diverse in ethnicity and background, and all with one thing in common: they’ve been targeted, extorted, and/or abused by men. Goldberg’s job: to take those men down in fire and flame.
Goldberg also takes time to focus on the legal aspects and implications of many of her cases. She explains how hard it is to get a restraining order against someone who has been targeting a woman online; how police officers often don’t believe victims if they can’t identify the perpetrator or cannot provide one; and how there are dozens (if not hundreds) of loopholes in our legal systems that allow this type of behavior to continue. Goldberg underscores one vital point: the system is failing and has failed us.
How does Goldberg know so much about this field? How did she come to start her own firm with the singular mission to protect women? It should come as no surprise to the reader that Goldberg herself is a victim of a psycho-stalker ex. She details (with horrible, horrible clarity) how her ex manipulated her, threatened her, and hurt her. And she is not afraid (anymore) to mention how many times she’s been hurt and abused by men**.
It’s a horrifying reminder of how women can hardly ever go their whole life unmolested. Goldberg recounts the story of a client of hers who (in elementary school) was sexually assaulted by a classmate; the school refused to punish the boy who abused her and instead made her stay home from school, categorizing her as a “sexual deviant” for engaging in sexual activity (even though it was entirely against her will.) Young or old, women are not safe—Goldberg intends to change that.
She tackles cases of intensity (often for free) with the singular purpose of protecting her client and restoring some modicum of her dignity. And Goldberg is good at what she does, like, mop-the-floor-with-the-law good. She has worked cases against police precincts, local governments, and federal-level suits—she is a badass. And don’t you forget it.
This was not an easy book to read. It broke my heart at almost every page and it made me so horribly mad. I can’t imagine that it’ll be an easy book for others to read too. But I think it is of the utmost importance to bear witness to these crimes: to acknowledge them and admit that they happened and that it was often at the hands of a broken system. We must stand by these women and support them as Goldberg does. We must believe them and help them fight back.
A beautiful blend of narrative and legal baddass-ery, Nobody’s Victim will have you wondering how any of this was allowed to happen. Goldberg takes care to point out the exact loopholes that are inherent in many legal systems and describes how they can be fixed. But she also underscores the ways in which the government refuses to plug the holes. It’s heartbreaking and invigorating; it’ll make you angry and furious. At its close, Goldberg encourages us to fight back. “We are nobody’s victim,” she writes. It’ll take an army, and Goldberg is in the middle of assembling her own. But it will take more than one legal practice and a handful of amnesty non-profits. It will take all of us, men and women alike, to fight back and stand up for those who have been beaten down.
*Nobody’s Victim is written by Carrie Goldberg with the help of Jeanine Amber.
**She even mentions how a man sutured a swastika into the skin of her ass. And that was a different incident than her psycho-stalker ex.