Q&A with LACLJ Attorney Sonia Shakoori


Q: Why did you want to work in this field?
I care deeply about meaningful access to justice for low-income communities, especially survivors who face barriers in addition to their socioeconomic conditions. I am also passionate about gender equity, and as defined in Title IX, sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of sex discrimination.

Q: What misconceptions about sexual assault do you wish more people knew?
A misconception that comes up a lot, especially in the legal system, is that if a person was sexually assaulted then they would have immediately reported the incident. In reality, most sexual assaults are not reported and even if they are reported it’s usually not until much later. There are many reasons why a survivor would not immediately report the incident – for example, safety concerns, intimidation, victim blaming, trauma.

Most significantly, from my experience, I have noticed that there is a process most survivors go through until they realize that they were sexually assaulted. That is not usually a quick process. And unfortunately our legal system is not yet set up for the various responses that survivors experience.

Q: Tell us about the recent Title IX case you took on with LACLJ pro bono partners.
I previously worked at UCLA’s Title IX Office, so I was familiar with the rules surrounding a “prompt and equitable resolution” of a Title IX report. When I first heard about what our client went through when dealing with the school, I was sincerely shocked at the way the school responded to her report and the way they mistreated her throughout the Title IX process. Not only had the client faced sexual harassment by a professor, she was let down at every turn by school officials when she reported the professor.

In every case, I have a discussion with the client about what justice looks like for them and what their goals are in working together. Here, justice looked like accountability for the client. She wanted the school to be held accountable for their violations of Title IX – for not providing a prompt and equitable resolution – and as a result disrupting her education. I personally advocated for filing a lawsuit against the district because it would have a wider impact for other survivors going through the Title IX process on their campuses.

I feel very fortunate that we were able to connect with Sara Colon, and I want to give a big shout out to her and her team for taking on this case pro bono and for fiercely representing our client.

Q: What’s a fun tidbit you’d like to share?
I find myself spending more and more time doing pottery. (I teach beginner wheel-throwing classes if anyone is interested!) I really love photography, but I am not very good at it, so I would like to practice more.