Paralegal: Parker Theuninck
Not only are all our advocates trauma-informed, but every single one is deeply passionate for our mission to empower survivors and protect kids. We hope this mini-interview gives a small window into some of the talented, empathetic and driven advocates that work at our firm.
What is your favorite thing about working at Jeff Anderson & Associates?
Parker: From an early age, I kind of knew that I had to do something with meaning. That means different things for different people, and it comes in different forms. For me, it was always a sense of justice…you know, the idea of helping people who can’t help themselves or righting wrongs. Jeff gave me the idea of reading a book when I first started here after we had a conversation about purpose. Viktor Frankl is a psychologist and a Holocaust survivor and he wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl says “the meaning of life is to give life meaning.” For me, being here, it gives my professional life meaning.
Why did you apply to Jeff anderson & Associates?
Parker: It goes back to the first question – I needed to do something that had meaning. I remember my interview. It was in this room. Mike said, “Why are you looking for a job?” and I told him “I’m not…I wasn’t.” But, a year and a half before applying here, I’d watched the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. It caught my eye because my mom worked with deaf and hard of hearing kids in the schools. The documentary was about a school for the deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where there was a perpetrator abusing kids. I watched the whole thing and I noticed that the firm [Jeff Anderson & Associates] represented people that were highlighted in the film. And I realized that the firm was in my backyard, in Minnesota. I told myself that if they ever have an opening, I would apply. So, about a year goes by, and I had been working in defense firms for five years. I was getting ready to switch fields or move – I needed a change. Then I got an email saying there was an opening and I told myself I was going to apply. So I did and I started at the firm a couple weeks after that.
What is your favorite thing about working with survivors ?
Parker: I think it is the transformation. In the initial call with a survivor, you can pick up on the apprehension, the fear, the tension that they have when considering telling someone about what happened to them. And in most instances, they are contemplating saying something for the first time and you’re one of the first people they’ve told. That first call is obviously very vulnerable for them and is extremely difficult. It’s a delicate exchange.
The transformation happens when all the sudden you feel the tension leave. They’re done telling their story and sometimes there’s an audible sigh. There’s just a sense of gratitude, like “Thank you for taking this weight off of me.” You can just feel the relief and you can hear a change in their tone of voice. That’s probably my favorite thing about working with survivors.
Was there a moment where you felt particularly proud to work at Jeff Anderson & Associates?
Parker: There is not one. I can’t say there is one moment. But there are so many moments where you feel an expression of gratitude. Because if you zoom out and look at what it took that person to get to the first phone call or making it to the end of a lawsuit; a lifetime of fear and shame and an inability to trust anyone with their story. An expression of gratitude ends up being the ultimate compliment and proud moment.
How have your grown as a person since working at Jeff Anderson & Assocates?
Parker: On almost a weekly basis you hear someone’s story of trauma. So it’s always at the forefront of your mind that everybody has a story – a collection of experiences that led them to the moment you interact with them. It can be easy, for example when you’re cut off in traffic or someone’s rude to you, to react and make a snap judgement about that person. But I try to take a moment and think about whatever is happening right now is not about me – it’s about their story. Whether it is something that happened to them five minutes, five weeks, or fifty years ago. That person’s story brought them to that moment.
What is your favorite food?
Parker: I like anything off the grill. There’s nothing I’d say “No, I won’t eat that.” I love Italian, sushi, chips. I have a hard time putting down a bag of chips.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Parker: Anything being outdoors and DIY projects. I recently got back into fishing the past few years and I like to golf. I also like a good heart-pumping, scenic hike.
What is your favorite place you have traveled to and why?
Parker: To Belgium. Several years ago, my younger brother and I took my dad to Belgium. He’s 100% Belgian. Both his parents came here from Belgium. We met like 30 or 40 people with my same unique last name, a bunch of relatives. One of the relatives has maintained a family tree that we were able to trace our name back to 1640. We spent a few nights in Brussels and spent the rest of the time in Bruges. Bruges is incredible.
What is something you do to help alleviate stress or anxiety?
Parker: It has taken me a long time to figure out what works for me and it’s always a work in progress. It starts with first acknowledging that you’re in that state of stress. It’s easy to get stuck in paralysis by analysis and just sit, unproductive, and worry about the stress without dealing with it. Once you start acknowledging that you’re in that space, I try to have a change in environment – go outside, go for a walk, have an intense workout – something to get your mind out of that stuck space. I then dedicate time to take inventory of everything causing that stress and ask myself “What can I do right now to alleviate some of it?” and acknowledging that I can’t make all of it go away at once. It comes down to what can I do in the next hour, what can I do today and what can I plan to do this week, to help alleviate the stress. And I slowly chip away at it. There’s not a magic trick that’s going to make it go all away immediately.