Response: Breaking the Cycle

on Friday, 07 December 2018. Posted in Safespace

Response: Breaking the Cycle

On Tuesday, December 4th, WCAX posted the article, Breaking the Cycle: Is restorative justice the answer for domestic abuse? The article addresses a broader question of justice within our society and what healing may - or may not - look like for survivors.

Below are some quotes from the article (see full article here: https://bit.ly/2PpRnwq):

Last year, nearly half of all misdemeanor domestic violence cases (379 of 797) and more than half of all felonies (270 of 409) were dismissed by either prosecutors or the courts...

“The numbers of cases that get dismissed in the court system speak for themselves,” [says] T.J. Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General… “What's happening in the traditional criminal justice system isn't working. So let's have the courage to say it's not working and let's start looking at different option.” Donovan said.

[Galaise, a survivor of violence shared,] "I feel like the system utterly failed him. And because it failed him, it failed our whole family," Galaise said.

Experiencing harm within the criminal legal system is unfortunately all too common for survivors.When a survivor works within the criminal legal system, the choice to prosecute - or not to prosecute - lies with the local state's attorney. The survivor’s experience and wishes for safety help to inform the process and what the attorney seeks in criminal charges, but the power to make that decision ultimately lies with the state.

For many of the survivors who PCVT’s SafeSpace Anti-Violence Program works with, there is the additional fear of experiencing identity related harm through the criminal legal system (e.g., homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, classism, etc.). The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2012, page 124) stated,

“Police services were the most highly problematic aspect of government services overall, with respondents reporting the highest rate of assault when attempting to access police services (6%), along with very high rates of harassment/ disrespect (29%) and denial of equal service (20%).”

Prior to working within the criminal legal system, transgender survivors may ask, “Will they be racially biased? Will they misgender me while they are talking about a really deeply harmful experience? Will they believe me? Will they remember to have an interpreter available for me? Will they ‘victim-blame’ me? Will the jury dismiss me due to [insert *ism here]?”.

At SafeSpace, we strive to support and empower survivors to make choices that feel best to them. We believe that survivors are the experts for their own lives and should lead their own decisions without pressure from others. This philosophy means that we respect a survivor’s choice to participate – or not to participate – in the criminal legal system.

SafeSpace is available to provide emotional support, advocacy, and resources to LGBTQ+ and HIV affected survivors of violence (domestic, sexual, emotional, and hate) and discrimination. We also are available to provide trainings and technical assistance to providers who are striving to provide more inclusive support.

Advocates can be reached during office hours (Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) through our warm-line 802-863-0003 and by email safespace@pridecentervt.org.

We believe you. We support you. And we believe that you are the expert of your own healing or movement forward.

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