Sexual Assault and the Criminal Justice System.

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In light of this whole Rihanna-Chris Brown mess, Megan talks candidly about the difficulty/dickheadedness she encountered in pressing charges against her own attacker.

My victim’s advocate refused to speak to me after our second phone call and first meeting because my reactions stressed her out. Literally: refused to call me or speak to me. The prosecutor’s office strong-armed the detective in my case into doing it because they didn’t want to. The only thing that person is there to advocate for is the prosecutors’ interests with you, not your interests with them. They often don’t give a fuck about your interests. If you want that, tough shit, honey. Find your own lawyer.

The first person who suggested I might have been culpable — before the prosecutors got around to doing it — came less than 24 hours after it happened. She said that perhaps if I hadn’t have had so much to drink… I can’t imagine hearing from a relentless cavalcade of voices that I did something to engender the violence perpetrated on my person. Hearing law enforcement suggest it was bad enough.

The moment shani-o and I first discussed thie, she predicted a flurry of support for Brown, who would say that Rihanna escalated the situation and somehow deserved it. She was unfortunately very right, as that’s more or less how this has played out on the “urban” gossip blogs (sorry, we’re not linking to them).

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5 thoughts on “Sexual Assault and the Criminal Justice System.

  1. geo February 13, 2009 at 11:50 am Reply

    very interesting post. i’m glad you posted it.

    a highlight from the huffington post letter:
    “That you owe it to the other women out there who could be harmed by him in the future or the girls who’ve taken it in silence from him in the past.”

    i’ve always had a problem with this logic. it implicitly blames the victim for not only her assailant’s behavior, but also the behavior of other men who abuse and assault women. it’s another slap in the face to victims. statements like this ignore the root causes for violence against women.

  2. shani-o February 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Geo, that’s very, very true. This paradox where society assigns weakness to women and simultaneously makes us fully responsible for our own safety and the safety of other women is utterly baffling and infuriating.

  3. SDot February 14, 2009 at 12:11 am Reply

    The linked article broke my heart a little, because I volunteer as a victim advocate, and it basically sounds like that woman’s advocate didn’t know what the f*ck she was doing. I’m appalled that the advocate would blame her and then refuse to give all of the information. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone who volunteers or works in this capacity. All I can say is that when I’m in the room with a survivor, it’s all about her (or him) and what they need and everyone needs different things. Not sure what the protocol was with Megan, but if it works anything like ours, it might not be that the advocate “refused” to take her calls as much as we’re not allowed to correspond with survivors after the first initial follow-up call. Any help they need after that is automatically referred to the main office or organization that handles counseling, because most volunteers aren’t qualified to handle dealing with a specific survivor for an extended period of time as surrogate counselors. But I can see how that could be interpreted by a survivor in need who’s getting negative feedback from others in regards to the assault. Many of us are not licensed counselors, but people with other jobs and other lives who stop what we’re doing and take our time to help. I say this, not to justify the obviously horrible treatment that the women in the linked articles described, but to let anyone else reading this post know that really the advocates are there for you, you can trust them and they are there to help. I have seen some really amazing volunteers in the time that I have been doing this. They are not getting paid, they do it because they care and they want to make sure you get what you need.

    Now, on the flip side I could go into the annals of trying to prosecute a sexual assault, but I suppose it would be enough to say that if I were ever assaulted, knowing what I know about the system and how sexual assault cases are tried, I would not press charges, unless my case was made felony through a kidnapping or something–in which case, the state can try the case whether or not you officially press charges (a la the Central Park jogger). It’s a hard row to hoe for any survivors looking for legal justice because unless there are witnesses, it’s the kind of crime that’s always one person’s word against another. And from what I’ve observed, those wheels of justice move a lot slower or sometimes not at all if you are poor and a person of color. Nonetheless, I would never discourage a survivor from pressing charges who really wanted to press charges–even after I laid out all the negatives. Nor would I encourage a survivor to press charges who really didn’t want to. It’s not the advocate’s job to make up your mind for you. Merely to give you whatever information you need and try to ease your time in the ER and refer you to organizations that could best fill your emotional or physical needs post-trauma.

    I didn’t mean to get completely off-topic of the post–it just seemed like those linked posts ran the risk of painting all advocates with the same brush, which seems just as dangerous as allowing people who claim women such as Rihanna “had it coming” to go unchecked. I’m not trying to negate those other women’s experiences, but it would be wrong to cast advocates as these negligent, judgmental people who sit there blaming you and conspiring against you with the assistant state attorney’s office. Not true.

  4. Combat Jack February 14, 2009 at 1:29 am Reply
  5. […] postbougie, ill doctrine, huffington […]

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