Guest Author - Kelli Deister
Unfortunately, in one of the places that a victim should be the safest, many are further victimized and abused, by both their abuser and the legal system. Sadly, the victim is usually portrayed as an overly paranoid and emotional mess while the abuser appears to others as being calm and together. The victimized parent goes to court on behalf of the victimized children, in order to make a plea to the judge for their safety.
When the parents appear before the judge, in order to discuss their case, the parent that was abusive stands before the judge in their best clothes, with their best smiles, and on their best behavior. On the contrary, the victimized parent appears to be on the verge of tears. I believe very strongly that when a judge hears a case, they should take into account the behaviors of both parents standing before them. It is very easy for the perpetrator to stand on the other side of the judge and give his victim that one look that only the victim knows the meaning of. It could be a simple smirk, but when the victim sees that familiar smirk, they might begin to cry, out of fear. If the smirk signaled the beginning of a beating, why wouldnít the woman be afraid of it in court. After all, the judge didnít see anything wrong with the looks being given. However, the judge wasnít in the home, during one of the beatings, in order to see what the look meant.
It is my opinion that there are too many cases that end with the judge stating that they donít believe there is a danger, based on how the abusers behaves in the court room, or whether or not the perpetrator attended the court ordered classes. There are also cases that result in the judge ordering the perpetrator and the victim to get along with each other.
I would like to know how some of our judges expect a victim to react or behave in the court room. Many times, the male perpetrator threatens the victim by telling her that he will tell the judge she is paranoid and placing her fears onto the children. Obviously, this isnít the case, but the abuser often knows what cards to deal in the courtroom. The person that the judges see standing before them is nothing like the person the woman and children see at home. I often wonder how judges expect a victim of domestic violence to act when she stands before them? Do they really expect her to be highly composed and 'together, when her abuser is only a matter of feet from her side? Do they even understand the fact that many abusers make promises of harm, or threats of harm, should their victims talk?
So many times, victims are told that the justice system needs work. Personally, I have grown weary of hearing this. I am forced to wonder who will step up to the plate, on behalf of child abuse victims and advocate for their safety. The judges, I believe, should be actively trying to bring about changes. The judges are the only ones able to make the necessary reforms in the court system. Yet, there are those that repeatedly take their power and send a victim of domestic violence back out the doors of the supposed safety and into the arms of more danger.
Many times, the person that tries to bring safety to a child, by seeing the judge, ends up in tears at the ignorance of the judge. When the mothers go to court in search of establishing safety for the children, they are traumatized outside of the judges courtroom and the judges are clueless. It is my opinion that judges should sit outside of their chambers, out of uniform, in order to see the trauma that the childís mother is being forced to accept as normal and appropriate.
If judges take the time, they will see the abusers charades. I believe that all those within the court should be sent to classes informing them of abuse and the many aspects of it.