Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Courts to victims: "You don't count."

If you're not reading The Curvature, you ought to be. Cara is relentless- she's always posting a story that I haven't seen yet or that other blogs haven't jumped on yet, and this was no exception.

Not only does she break stories, but she breaks them down, too:

Like the judge who thought that a prostitute wouldn’t care about being raped because, well, she’s a prostitute, this judge seems to think that a woman who won’t testify in a domestic violence case doesn’t care about the abuse. He of course fails to take into account that women who are abused are very commonly either 1. afraid of their partner 2. think that they are to blame for the abuse or 3. have mental health issues that make them want to stay with their partners. This does not mean that the abuse did not occur — as any reasonable person should already know.

The prostitution story she's talking about is this horrible story, by the way.

Either of those stories, alone, is horrible enough. Taken together, and in the face of the many other examples of questionable judicial rulings, and mistreatment by police, and it's hard not to think that maybe they're part of a larger problem.

One might even say a systemic one.

One might, in fact, go so far as to call it institutional.

To expand on what Cara is saying (and to shamelessly reference my own comments): the judge's argument doesn't make any sense beyond (or even on) the surface level. Even if we agree that it's possible that some people might consent to being struck repeatedly in the face, that the victim did not come forward and testify does not suggest that she, in fact, consented, but, rather, suggests the opposite.

The judge is reaching for an unlikely reason for the the victim's behavior when a simpler, and more likely, explanation exists. The sad reality is that victims of domestic violence often do not feel safe coming to the authorities or testifying against the people abusing them. Many times, the victims have come to think that there is no escape, and that going to authorities will leave them with no support, or, worse, will escalate the violence that they're experiencing.

Even if we accept what the judge is saying- that there are "rare cases; sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up,"- we should be asking if that is likely, and if that makes sense in regards to this case, or if the victim's behavior is more likely the result of fear.

The test for this is rather simple: Assume that the judge is correct for a moment, and that the victim, in this case, was actually a consenting partner to the incident, and that this was some kind of sadomasochistic game or something. Does the victim's behavior make sense in this context?

I think it should be obvious that the answer is "no," it does not. If the victim was a consenting party to the assault, it doesn't any make sense that she would not come forward to exonerate the attacker. After all, if she was consenting to being struck in the face, why wouldn't she come forward when they arrested her attacker to say "Why are you arresting my partner? He didn't do anything to me that I didn't give consent to, and he's innocent of the crime you're charging him with."

The judge, instead, ignores an obvious, simple, and well documented reason why a victim might not come forward, and jumps on an unlikely, absurd, and unreasonable one, and, in the process, sets the justice system even further back. Over and over our courts keep showing the victims of crimes that they shouldn't trust the judicial system to protect them. When courts dismiss cases even when the police witness the crime taking place, it sends a chilling message to victims of abuse: even when we see it happen it doesn't count.


Cara said...

Aw, thanks Roy. I think that I rather enjoy being called "relentless." :)

Jaclyn said...

Relentless is totally a compliment in my book, too! And you certainly are, Cara.