It’s not that Marie-Flore Johnson is necessarily surprised by the stories she hears from clients seeking asylum in the United States. The daughter of a French mother and Togolese father, she spent much of her childhood in West Africa, where, she recalls, family friends would sometimes “just disappear overnight.” One close relative, she says, barely escaped an assassination attempt; other family members have been tortured over the years.

But none of that makes it easier to hear stories about a Chinese woman coerced into having an abortion, or an African man forced to stand facing the sun every day to blind him. But she listens anyway, for Johnson�a corporate associate specializing in international and licensing work�has developed a sobering subspecialty: representing torture victims in asylum cases.

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