Campus News

Law school alumnus funds nation’s first child sexual abuse victim clinic

The UGA School of Law will be the first in the nation to have an experiential learning opportunity dedicated solely to the assistance of victims of child sexual abuse.

The Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic will open in January. Initial funding for the clinic has been donated by Georgia Law alumnus Marlan B. Wilbanks, who received his Juris Doctor in 1986. It is expected that many of the clinic’s first clients will be those now eligible to bring civil charges against their abusers as a result of the passage of House Bill 17, the “Hidden Predator Act,” by the Georgia legislature.

“The act of sexually abusing a child is the attempted murder of a soul. I can see no more important task than protecting those in our society who too often have no voice,” said Wilbanks, a longtime advocate for child protection issues. “The underlying goal of this clinic will be to educate, prepare and sensitize the next generation of lawyers as to the ways victims can be protected. On behalf of the children and families who would otherwise not be able to avail themselves of legal assistance, I applaud the University of Georgia School of Law for its willingness to be the first law school in the nation to draw a line in the sand against child sexual abuse.”

Wilbanks, who was recognized by the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund as the 2014 Lawyer of the Year, is the second Georgia Law alumnus involved in the DaVita Healthcare Partners false claims settlement agreement earlier this year who has chosen to make a significant investment in training for future attorneys.

Marci A. Hamilton of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a nationally recognized expert on the subject of child protections and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children on the need for child sexual abuse statute of limitations reform, confirmed both the uniqueness and need for such a program.

“This will be the first law school clinic that responds to statute of limitations reform for child sex abuse and offers assistance to victims,” Hamilton said. “When reforms such as those recently enacted in Georgia are advanced, victims typically come forward who need advice and injunctive relief but whose case would not otherwise be picked up by an attorney in private practice. The University of Georgia School of Law is doing a great public service by assisting these victims and making it more likely that the public will learn the identities of even more hidden predators.”

A nationwide search was launched recently to identify a director for the new clinic.