A champion for Internet victims

Carrie Goldberg is a nationally recognized victims’ rights lawyer who lives in New York, but was born and raised in Aberdeen. She has a new book out, she’s been profiled by major media outlets and a television series based on her law firm is now in development.

She graduated from Aberdeen High School and returns frequently to visit her parents, Larry and Jane Goldberg. Next weekend she’ll be at the Bishop Center on the Grays Harbor College campus for an onstage conversation about her book with University of Washington School of Law professor, Ryan Calo, an expert in cyber law.

Goldberg, 42, lives in Brooklyn and her firm handles cases all over the country fighting for victims of online harassment, revenge porn and sexual assault. She’s been profiled in The New Yorker and Elle magazine, spoken at The White House about sexual violence in schools, and worked on national and state legislation to protect victims of sexual violence.

Last month, she petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to hear her case, Herrick v Grindr, which demands that individuals have the right to sue tech companies for harms that occur on their platforms. Her work representing former actress Lucia Evans resulted in Harvey Weinstein’s arrest in 2018 and her cases against the New York City Department of Education have prompted a national outcry about the pattern and practice of schools punishing victims of sexual violence.

Paramount is developing a fictional television show about her firm. Her first book was released by Penguin in August 2019, “Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, & Trolls.” The New York Times calls her book “[A] memoir doubling as a rallying cry for privacy justice. … Goldberg chronicles in Nobody’s Victim her battle for justice in a tone that is both take-no-prisoners and warmly gregarious … The cases she narrates are gut-wrenching, and her conversational approach lightens what could otherwise be an unbearably heavy load. It also makes accessible the complicated legal history leading to our current moment.”

Here is a Q & A with Carrie Goldberg:

Where did your journey toward writing Nobody’s Victim begin?

In 2013, a man that I had a short relationship with began a campaign of harassment against me. He sent hundreds of text messages, tried to break into my apartment, made false police reports, hacked my work computer, sent emails with naked pics and videos of me saying he’d blind copied judges and colleagues. He said that he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying mine, and that there was no hole deep enough for me to climb into to escape it.

I went to court to try to get an Order of Protection and stop him, but was told that I had “a first amendment problem,” that it was his constitutional right to terrorize me by distributing private images of me. I searched for an attorney who understood domestic violence, criminal law and copyright laws and understood the current world of the Internet and social media. But there wasn’t one. It was very isolating because he was also harassing my friends and family members.

When I finally got to the other side of my crisis, I decided to become the lawyer I needed. So I started the law firm. I figured other people also were dealing with psycho exes. And I was right. Since starting the firm in 2014, we’ve helped hundreds of people, gotten dozens of restraining orders, gotten a lot of abusers put in jail, and removed over 30,000 naked pictures from the internet. Recovered millions of dollars for our clients. Last year, we were named the fastest growing law firm in the country. I have five full-time lawyers working for me and we’re busy!

What’s your favorite part of running your own law firm?

Wearing what I want, swearing when I want, and controlling the thermostat. Just kidding. Sort of. My biggest joy is getting buckets of money for my clients from the pervert abuser or the institutions that enabled the abuse. I firmly believe that if somebody hurts you, somebody must pay.

How were your experiences shaped by growing up on the Harbor?

I’m really proud of growing up in Aberdeen. It’s a special and complicated place. I graduated in the Class of ’95 from AHS and went to McDermoth, Miller, and also did Running Start at GHC. When I was in Aberdeen, there was a lot of despair when the spotted owl issue killed logging, our mills shut down, and Walmart eviscerated the shops downtown. But there’s also a lot of hope. It’s always made me very mad that we have some of the world’s wealthiest humans and corporations in our state and yet none of those financial resources are used to help our community just two hours away from those powerhouses. That sense of injustice is why I like to represent disempowered folks against outrageously wealthy individuals and corporations.

I represented a 13-year-old against a $19 billion tech company, two young victims of sexual assault against the entire City of New York, and brought down Harvey Weinstein with the crimes he committed against my client, Lucia Evans. In the Harbor, we are bred to feel like the underdogs. I have a chip on my shoulder because of that. It makes me not afraid to take down the powerful and wealthy.

What’s your book about?

It’s about the fact that we are all a moment away from crossing paths with somebody hell-bent on destroying our life. And with the internet so available as a weapon it’s never been easier for offenders. But it also provides a lot of tools and stories so you know how to stay safe. After a break-up is the most dangerous time for a victim of intimate partner violence. I want to help people recognize the signs to look for.

You talk about Aberdeen in the book.

I do. I weave in a lot of personal stories into the book. Some embarrassing ones and a couple that forged my interest in conquering pervs. I wrote some of my favorite sections at my parents’ home and came up with the title, “Nobody’s Victim,” there, too. It was easier for me to focus in Aberdeen.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you come back to the Harbor?

I like to vedge out with my parents, work out at the Y, and I love to go on epic jogs. We don’t have hills in New York City and Scammel Hill is murder. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with friends. Alysha Bruner did my hair until a few years ago when she finally told me that after living in New York for 20 years, perhaps it was time to find a stylist in the city.

What do people need to know about the law?

Don’t be afraid of it. The law is the great equalizer. For the cost of opening a case in court – a couple hundred dollars – if you’ve been injured, you can hold the most powerful person or company accountable. That is, you can sue them for money. If you are the victim of harassment at work, you don’t have to take it. If you were abused as a kid, you may have the ability to fight back and demand justice and money, especially if an institution like a church or school was involved.

Our courts are here for victims to demand justice – they are not just for suits involving things like car accidents or murder trials. Criminal cases are all about our government being in control and punishing the offender, but the victim gets nothing out of that and is totally at the hands of the cops and prosecutors who decide whether to move forward. Civil law, though, is a tool for victims to demand the offender pay. Money will always be a crude way to correct injustices, but we all need to be honest that money buys comfort and it buys power and influence.

People try to make suing seem shameful. It’s not. It doesn’t make you an opportunist or a golddigger to sue your offender. There’s no reason to feel bad about using our justice system to demand your abuser pay everything he or she is worth. And there are lots of lawyers like me and excellent ones in the Harbor who take those cases without getting paid in advance.

What work does your law firm do?

Whatever our client needs to feel strong, safe and whole!

We demand that stalkers cease and desist, we expose predators, we rep young people against their school if they were sexually assaulted by a student, we sue those that enabled child abuse, we get Orders of Protection, we get “revenge porn” off the internet; it’s all about what the survivor needs. We know what it’s like to feel desperate and alone, and as a firm we want to serve as a reminder to others that there is a whole army of warriors willing to fight alongside them. You can get back in control and we can make that asshole pay for what they did!

What does online abuse look like?

Many of my clients are victims of stalkers who use the internet as a weapon. In a single day, a client of my law firm may receive 100 texts from their offender, saying they love you, they want to destroy you, “let’s get back together,” “I didn’t want to have to do this.” Abusers might direct an army of trolls to threaten and harass someone, they might post their address and Social Security number online, or threaten to distribute private, intimate images, impersonate them on dating apps and send people to their location, or track their location to stalk them. We have seen all sorts of novel ways that the internet is used to abuse and terrorize.

Should we be scared of the internet?

Technology isn’t inherently harmful. But it is a hugely powerful weapon for abusers, and amplifies the amount of damage they are able to do. The internet gives them exactly what they need to thrive: anonymity, access to victims and a consequence-free environment. Dating apps, for example, are an ideal hunting-ground for stalkers, groomers and sexual predators.

Perhaps what we should fear is society’s frequent disregard for the harmful consequences of criminal actions that take place online, and law enforcement’s ignorance around how to properly deal with digital evidence and crimes that take place on the internet and social media.

Why is your book important right now?

Firstly, on a cultural level. Not only have our clients been victimized by creeps and trolls, our justice system — in fact, our entire culture — re-victimizes them by disbelieving, demeaning, humiliating and abandoning them. Society seeks to shame victims at every turn, particularly when they dare to speak out against their abusers, because patriarchy profits from our silence. We believe in putting the shame and blame back where it belongs — on the perpetrator — thus freeing-up the victim to get back to the business of her righteous indignation.

Secondly, on the legislative level — because our laws are not fit for the age of the Internet. We are relying on ancient laws created decades ago to navigate a world that is unrecognizable. It is completely illogical and irrational, and it needs to change — for the safety of every single one of us.

We are all at the mercy of the omnipotent, all-powerful, and ungodly wealthy tech industry. It is the only industry on the face of the earth that is allowed to be so completely insubordinate and self-serving. Massive loopholes like the Communications Decency Act section 230 make internet providers almost completely immune from liability for the massive damages that they enable.

Dating apps could exclude serial abusers using their platforms to torment others, but they choose not to. Social media platforms could actively combat the distribution of so-called revenge porn, but they choose not to. Companies could protect our data, but they don’t. At some point we have to stop hoping that they will do the right thing, and make them do the right thing. I’m hoping this book brings home the importance of doing that, and doing it NOW.

Any final words?

Read my book!

Carrie Goldberg will be at the Bishop Center on the Grays Harbor College campus Sunday Sept. 22, at 2 p.m. to talk about the new book in conversation with University of Washington School of Law professor, Ryan Calo, an expert in cyber law. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and she will also be available to sign books at GH Wine Sellars in downtown Aberdeen that day from 5-6 p.m.

Photo by Natan Dvir                                 Attorney Carrie Goldberg poses for a portrait at the offices of her company on 16 Court Street in Brooklyn earlier this year.

Photo by Natan Dvir Attorney Carrie Goldberg poses for a portrait at the offices of her company on 16 Court Street in Brooklyn earlier this year.

The cover of Carrie Goldberg’s book.

The cover of Carrie Goldberg’s book.

The cover of Carrie Goldberg’s book.

The cover of Carrie Goldberg’s book.