Survivor’s Story – Triumphing Against the Legal System
- May 14, 2008
- 2 Comments
I received the following e-mail from a survivor a few weeks ago who wanted her experience to be heard. The recently posted article (posted below) regarding the abysmal quality of the U.S. court system goes hand in hand with this survivor’s battle against domestic violence.
I can think of so many stories to write about and so much advice to give other victims of abuse from my own experience. But I feel that I still have not fully healed to be able to venture into those dark memories again. But one thing I do want to speak about is how poorly my case was handled and how I felt almost wronged by the legal process. Even now it is hard for me to go into full detail.
Many women, especially in our community, are too scared to report instances of abuse. I too was very scared for a while, but then one day realized that I could not allow fear to take hold of me and control my life any longer.
The first time I had to call the police after being badly abused, I told the police officers I didn’t want to press charges. This was my fear talking and even the part of me that still cared for my abuser, but if I had pressed charges that day it would have saved me a lot of pain in the future. However, the police listened to me and pressed no charges. The law says that regardless of what the victim states, if an instance of abuse has taken place, the officer or state needs to prosecute the perpetrator.Again, if the officers had proceeded with the proper legal code, I could have escaped my nightmare a lot faster. I kept my distance from my abuser for a while, but because we were in close proximity, the abuse started again and continued, until I had to call the police again and this time formally pressed charges.The whole process was very lengthy, but not productive or efficient at all. Although I met with a social worker once or twice during the waiting period before trial, I failed to fully receive the appropriate documents to understand the whole process and had to rely a lot on my own research. Then I was finally called in one morning for a preliminary hearing and told that I would just be meeting with my lawyer for the first time to go over the case and proceedings. But as I walked into the reception area outside the court room, I stood frozen in place as I came face to face with my abuser. I was told that my abuser would be nowhere near me, but I was forced to face him alone as soon as I entered the building. I was then rushed into a separate room where I met my lawyer for the first time, who said that we were to begin court proceedings that day. I was not prepared at all to face my abuser, let alone be able to remain strong during a trial. The lawyer then told me that the defense lawyer had asked to meet with me and that it could result in a lengthy and difficult trial. I completely broke down. How was it that after so much abuse and so much pain, after I had the courage to take a stand, he would walk away free? I felt that the legal system was trying to take away the little bit of strength I had left after a long period of degradation and suffering.And that’s when I realized that I had to do all I could to win my case. He had stripped me of my friends, my happiness, and my own self respect. But I would not let him destroy me anymore. I timidly sat in the conference room, answering all the defense lawyer’s questions. Each question got more and more personal and detailed, making me more anxious as the lawyer probed into painful memories. And then his lawyer paused and looked at me with a hard stare and asked “Are you sure he even hit you?” I was taken aback, appalled at the fact that he was actually making it out to seem that I had made up all the abuse. I took a deep breathe, looked him directly in the eye, and said “Yes, he definitely did,” and proceeded to describe to him the many instances of abuse in full detail without flinching. I think even my own lawyer was a bit surprised. To this day that has been my proudest moment yet. The result was that after being advised by his defense lawyer, my abuser decided it was not worth it to take me to court and settled on the plea bargain. Although I feel the punishment wasn’t severe enough, it insured that if he ever physically hurt another person, he would receive an immediate felony and be placed in prison. He had scarred me, but knowing that no other girl would have to endure the pain I suffered let me be at peace. For all those survivors out there or even those of you who are still in an abusive relationship, my advice is don’t be afraid. Yes, our court systems do need to be vastly improved, and yes often times they make the battle seem ten times harder. But regardless of the outcome, fighting for your own justice will help you heal and become stronger, allowing you to move on and finally start living.