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Become an ally in justice

Don't forget to register to become an Ally in Justice.

As an Ally, you will be a leader in our community, advocating for domestic and sexual violence victims, armed with education materials to not only recognize victims, but to help them, too.

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victims and the legal system

When domestic and sexual violence cases make their way through the legal system, accused batterers have the right to a free court-appointed attorney in criminal cases, but the survivor isn't assured access to free or reduced-fee legal services. 

The victim needs to be on level ground with the abuser. Studies have shown the likelihood of a victims obtaining a civil restraining order goes from 32% to 86% when the victim has a lawyer.

There are legal aid groups around the country, but often the request/need for services far outweighs each clinic's ability. 

Leaders in law

Domestic violence affects all segments of our community and the courts have a key role in increasing victim safety and offender accountability.   Therefore, it is important that all participants in the justice system be aware of and trained in the complexities of family violence dynamics, legal procedures, and the services available for referral in the community.

The more you understand about domestic and sexual violence, the root of the violence and the effects of the victims, the better you will be at helping victims through the legal system.

what the legal system can do to help survivors

The legal system is a confusing and scary for many people. It can seem impossible if you are a victim of violence and trying to get justice from someone who claims to love you. Here are some suggestions on how the legal system can help ease these feelings in victims:

  1. Practice victim-centered intakes and interviewing (details below).
  2. Be upfront and honest about the time line and what to expect.
  3. Maintain a working knowledge of the local crisis centers that may be able to help your client with other needs he/she is experiencing due to the victimization.
  4. Keep the victim informed as much as possible. Check in with him/her even if there hasn't been any changes. This helps the victim know he/she hasn't been forgotten.
  5. Protect the victim from further victimization, to the extent possible.
  6. Notify the victim of any change in the offender's status.
  7. Provide opportunities for victims to help other victims and to serve the justice community.
  8. Make firm commitment to honor victim rights and address victim needs.
  9. Encourage and support victims who choose to attend court proceedings.
  10. Seek victim input during processes that affect sentencing or custody status of offenders.
  11. Work with the victim to safety plan.
  12. Provide continuous training to all professionals and volunteers who work with victims of crime to enhance their knowledge, increase their skills and reinforce positive attitudes toward meeting victim needs.

Tips for conducting a victim centered intake

  1. Establish a rapport. Share information about your services and any applicable confidentiality protections available. Communicate that you're there to listen and provide support, not to stand in judgement.
  2. Be aware of the survivor's comfort level. Acknowledge that sharing a traumatic, personal story shortly after meeting you may be difficult, and let the survivors know that they can choose to share as much or as little as they are comfortable with.
  3. Explain the purpose of follow-up questions. Explain that the follow-up questions are to ensure the best representation and not to imply that the survivor did anything wrong.
  4. Be attentive to the survivor's emotions. Survivors show a range of emotions. All feelings are normal. While it's always important to validate and normalize emotions, you should also be on the lookout for suicidal, homicidal, or other dangerous thoughts.
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Young terrified female was a victim of crime

5. Recognize memory impairment. Trauma impacts memory. It is typical and normal for a survivor to have trouble remembering the order of events or not to remember all the details of what happened.

6. Be patient. Sometimes, survivors need a break from people asking about their victimization. That is normal. If the survivor is in and out of communication with you, be patient. 

7. Practice victim-centered advocacy. Practice victim-centered advocacy by providing legal information and options, helping survivors to assess their options and supporting whichever step they take.

8. Use appropriate terms. Survivors may use slang or terms unfamiliar to you. It's fine to ask what a term means if you don't know. Use the same terms as the victim uses as appropriate.

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The more you know

It is often difficult for a person in the legal profession to understand why a victim doesn't want to participate in the prosecution of his/her abuser. Knowing a few of the reasons may help to understand the victim's resistance. 

  • Safety concerns-The victim fears retaliation from the abuser, especially since most don't end up behind bars
  • Consequences for the abuser-Very few abusers are charged and even fewer ever go to court, even fewer go to jail
  • Victim blaming-It is very hard to defend his/her actions (or lack of actions) to strangers who are trying to ensue that it is partially the his/her fault when it isn't
  • Rehashing the abuse-It is very traumatic for a victim to have to continuously retell the abuse he/she experienced to  police, lawyers and other personnel 

Testimonials

"As a victim, I felt overwhelmingly powerless. Part of my road to recovery was regaining that power. Information, knowledge, and support help aid in this process."
                                                Lynn Finzel
                                      Victim of Violence

"You will find that with all the good efforts of police, the justice system, and the community, to date – we still have plenty of ground to cover to satisfy victim needs."
                                       Ronald Neubauer
                   President, IACP, 1998 - 1999

depressed woman sit in underground with a hand coming and offers help

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