Personally and professionally, Lawrence Kasmen views himself as a risk-taker, a trait he ascribes to genetics and upbringing. "My father is the same way," he said.
Kasmen has ridden motorcycles and jumped out of planes. He roamed about the Middle East during politically tense times when tourism was discouraged.
A corporate and commercial real estate attorney, he fled the security of a large company to start his own law firm. On the side, he developed real estate and built homes. More recently, he created, with a partner, a mobile app for businesses.
But his latest passion is intended to reduce risk for others. For the past few years, Kasmen has instructed adults on how to prevent sexual abuse of children.
Soon after an entrepreneurial spirit led to the launch of Mobilezen, an app designed to promote business, Kasmen landed the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy as a client. Attending the 2009 Cheer for Children Ball, its annual black-tie fundraiser in November, he was inspired to undergo a three-hour training program with the Stewards of Children, a national awareness group.
He became a trainer, offering advice and guidance to other adults, and relishes his role in a ripple effect of the educational process. His lessons focus on how to recognize, address and report incidents of grown-ups' misconduct with kids.
"The theory is, children should not be their own keeper," said Kasmen, who provides some free services with the mobile app to the center. "It is incumbent on adults to protect children from sexual abuse."
Kasmen's devotion to the cause has landed him a seat on the board of directors for the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy beginning next year.
He recently spoke to the Daily Report about his commitment.
What spurred you to get involved?
I am a father of two boys, now 5 1/2 and 4. That is probably it.
When my wife and I went to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy event, we were moved by the cause. No one was really asking for money. It was a charity that was asking for your time and commitment and effort.
As lawyers, we have a duty to leverage our status, our position. I thought the best way I could get involved is to go and do Stewards of Children training. I can expose people to the problem and hopefully incite them to act or go through the training themselves. I try to get organizations to train their leaders and employees.
What are some examples of training sessions you've done?
We had the first continuing legal education seminar this year [on sexual abuse] that was sponsored by the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar. We had 25 attorneys attend. It will now be an annual event. We hope to get 50 attorneys next year.
My younger son's preschool is on its way to being a partner in prevention, which means at least 90 percent of their staff will be trained.
Before you got involved, did you know anyone victimized by abuse?
I was never exposed to it as a child, thankfully, not knowing anyone personally affected. As a father, I sort of woke up when the Penn State case broke. Someone said to me, "We all know someone who has had cancer, which affects one in nine people. Statistically, the estimates are that one in four girls and one in six boys under the age of 16 are victims of sexual abuse to some degree." That was shocking to me.
Do you believe the Penn State case has raised awareness of the problem?
Any situation like that does raise awareness but only for the short term. It's a blip on people's radar screen. They say it's unfortunate, then move on. Whether it's something with the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, it's in the news almost weekly. Long-term, I think educating people is the best way to raise awareness.
The new law passed in Georgia requires that any person or organization that deals with children has a duty to report [sexual abuse]. Most people don't know where to report or how to report it.
How else has your involvement affected your awareness or how you deal with the issue?
With my children, I know how to talk to them about it. It's not an issue that we keep hidden. I talk to my family and my friends. It's not a comfortable social topic, but I don't feel uncomfortable about it.
When you talk about it [to adults], inevitably someone will say, "You know, I was a victim." Or, "I knew someone who was a victim." Or "I knew someone accused of sexual abuse." For some people, it's the first time they've spoken about it. That catches me off-guard.
What was the idea behind Mobilezen?
In 2009, we saw an opportunity for a way to deliver information that at that time was unique and outside the box. It originated out of wanting to get information on real estate property at the curb. It evolved into the idea that, "If I have information about a business, a product or a service and everybody has a phone in their hand, I should be able to make that information available to them now through text messaging or a mobile website."
We've done a number of programs with Emory University, with Fulton County, Ga., with the Florida Panhandle and others.
Having started the real estate development and mobile app businesses and breaking out on your own to start a law firm, you describe yourself as an entrepreneur. Is that a term not often associated with lawyers?
That's probably safe to say. I think most lawyers suffer from paralysis by analysis. There are a number of attorneys who, if they had the opportunity, would love to practice on their own. They say, "I wish I had the guts to do that." There's a risk, right? The phone might not ring. To start your own company is a big leap. They will advise other companies all day on how to do it right, but they won't do it themselves.
Starting and succeeding in and failing in business makes me a better attorney. I understand what it's like in real life.