Legal Process

Dictionary.com defines the word advocacy as follows: 1) Public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy; 2) The profession or work of a legal advocate.

I wish I had known that the area I was camping and canoeing, while reputed to be safe, did not actively prohibit the entry of those with firearms, drugs, alcohol, or felony convictions. I wish I had realized that the sanctuary of a wilderness preserve meant there was no way to make contact when you needed help. There were no call boxes, no cell phone service, no forester patrols that I witnessed, and when harmed, I was literally trapped on an island with the perpetrators, hoping I could get out sight unseen at daybreak to make the day-long canoe trip back to safety.

I did not have a crime victim’s advocate supporting me while working through the legal process. While I was trying to get my feet on the ground, battling my own shock and trauma, my mom supported me tirelessly seeking resources and serving as a liaison for me when no one else would do so. In the end, I did not report the crime for my benefit, though I did want justice served. Honestly, I was far more afraid of going through the legal process than pursuing my recovery on my own. But I did feel it needed to be reported. I came to learn that the men had returned to the area for many years previously and would lay claim to an island, literally staking out a campsite for the duration of their trip. I did not want there to be another unsuspecting tourist sexually assaulted as I was. I kept thinking, “They were too orchestrated. This was not their first time.”

The brutal gang rape I reported was dragged out over a long period of time before the prosecutor’s office would make the decision to dismiss it. In one of our follow up conversations, the prosecutor told my Mom, “We aren’t dragging our feet; it’s more of a slow shuffle.” He tried to intimidate and scare me from moving forward by saying, “It has the potential to be a super high profile media case” and wondered if I could “withstand the scrutiny in (my) fragile state.” The suspects were not all interviewed; the interviews that did occur were dispersed over lengthy time periods, allowing time to arrange corroborating lies and the potential destruction of evidence.  When questioned, the prosecutor stated, “I have no specific knowledge that evidence is disappearing, but yes, it could conceivably be destroyed by the men.” Ultimately the case was dismissed and the men, though found, were minimally questioned and assured of only a limited inconvenience to their lives. I feel compelled to share what I learned from the legal process with the hope that someone else may benefit from my experience.

Throughout the legal process, I kept thinking, I can’t be the first person to have encountered these obstacles and challenges. I wish someone had helped prepare me for the harrowing legal process so I could have made more informed choices and better understood my rights as a victim and as a citizen, both of which I feel were violated. Survivors had their choice and control initially taken away by the person(s) committing the crime; it’s sad to learn that the legal process unnecessarily revictimizes the “victim” (their term) in ways as equally traumatic as the event because these are the team of people who are supposed to be on your side and charged with bringing justice to the crime.  The prosecutor in my case did not contact me once throughout the 10-month duration he spent reviewing the case until his office made the choice to dismiss it. Not even once did he try contacting me via email, phone or in person, and not once did he feel it necessary to hear my story or clarify a fact of the case.  However, two months after the case was dismissed, he emailed me a 7-page letter filled with inaccuracies and skewed assumptions he used as the basis for the dismissal. In his email, he had the gall to be self-congratulating when stating, “Our job is, in largest measure, to advocate for victims.”

Wikipedia clarifies the role of advocacy as follows:  Advocacy is a political process by an individual or a large group which normally aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. . . it may include media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing . . . .  A group lobbying for change is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics.[1] Research is beginning to explore how advocacy groups use social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.[2]

If you would like to learn more about my experience and share your own, so that we may gather information and be stronger together, please follow me on http://injustice-4-all.com

Below is a link to twenty bible verses that talk about justice. May they sustain you when it seems that evil is working overtime to thwart the good that is being done! http://voices.yahoo.com/20-bible-verses-justice-3984616.html

 


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