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I am a lawyer. I was also a tenured Law Professor for many years. I’ve done fancy lawyering in disaster-zones, and have lectured and written about things like “power hegemonies in disaster discourse and praxis that reify oppressive social hierarchies.”
The people who understand that sentence do important work. Many are my friends and former colleagues. But we are not the ones who drown when the levees break, starve when the crops fail, or most likely to be raped in a displacement camp.

These things happen to women, men, and children who do not have money to evacuate before a disaster, or to rebuild destroyed homes and livelihoods afterward. They happen to older people, people with limited mobility, people who are sick. These things have happened in New Orleans, Port au Prince, the Philippines, and countless other places across the globe. And they keep happening.

If you’re living through the aftermath of a disaster, then read on. As this site grows, you’ll find posts describing the humanitarian machine that’s descended upon you. You’ll find links to safe shelter recommendations and “best practices.” (Posts like this). I’ll explain food distribution guidelines, water sanitation standards, and “cash for work” programs (Here you go). I’ll write about rape.

I’ll write about government obligations, humanitarian responsibilities, and rights that are owed to you while you are displaced. I’ll share strategies you can use to protect your rights and well-being. Other lawyers and disaster experts might not be impressed with what’s written here, and that’s ok. They are welcome to visit any time, though I’m not necessarily talking to them. I’m talking to you.

I hope these posts help you to communicate with law-makers and aid providers. I hope they help you to direct recovery efforts towards the things that matter most to you, to ensure that your rights be respected, and to gain control over your post-disaster destiny.

I already know that you are capable. I’ve worked alongside you in camps, in shelters, and in destroyed community, so I’ve seen you achieve remarkable things on your own. You don’t need me to recover, but the information you find here might help ease some of your recovery burden.

If you haven’t lived through a mega-disaster, you probably think there’s no way people who have could even access a site like this. Well, I can tell you from experience, internet connections are easy to find after a disaster. The problem is finding clean water.

Who knows, though. Maybe it flops, and this site becomes a personal diary of midnight musing. I’ll take a leap of faith anyway. If the information here matters, it will get to people who need it. Somehow.

Finally, I’ll post my resume someday to validate my bona fides. But for now, my communications team (my husband and my dear friend/super Law Prof Tracy Norton) say it’s more important to “personalize my web presence.” So if I haven’t lost you already, here’s a little more about me:


My “can’t live withouts”: Two very big-hearted little boys – one patient and calm like his Dad, the other stubborn and hot-tempered like his Mom. And the man who asked to borrow my pen one fateful day in Washington Square Park.

High Honorable Mention: The woofs, Kenya and Brutus (a.k.a. Crazy and Lazy). And Mouse-trap, the cat.

Favorite Time: Late night together in bed with the man, the boys, the woofs and the cat – fighting for space and covers.

Breakfast: Pepperoni pizza. Diet coke, with a splash of Coke. Cubed ice, please.

My Turning Point: Katrina. Full stop.

Haters: A few I suppose. None worth mentioning.

Attitude: Unapologetic. Sorry.

Vices: Can’t think of one. I’m that fucking boring. Oh, wait! I swear.

Theme song: Kina, Insanity. Listen here. Then check this vid for Girl From the Gutter. STILL LOVE YOU KINA!!

Best Psychic Prediction: A medium once told me that one day a coalition of governments would try to destroy me after I exposed their human rights abuses in some disaster. Woah. If that ever happens, my time was well spent.

My inspiration: Washanda Gonzalez. I think of you so much. I hope your life is beautiful.

-Kathleen Bergin

(insert US disclaimer: blog for info only, not legal advice)