IGNORE THE BACKPEDALING
DEAR EDITOR: Boy, the police can't win for losing ["Victim Without a Voice," Oct. 31]. They try to take domestic violence seriously by arresting the perpetrators rather than regarding it as something for families to "work out," then they are faulted for breaking families up. "The victim is not listened to" sounds absurd to me, when the cops take the victims' calls for help more seriously than the backpedaling that happens later.Abused women benefit from automatic prosecution, and those who insist they were crying wolf should remember: "If you call them, they will come."Sally Neary
THANKS FOR THE REAL STORY
DEAR NINA SHAPIRO: Thank you for exposing what really happens with the system if you are involved in domestic violence.
I was a victim of domestic violence. Jim, my fiancé, and I have been together since March 2005. The incident occurred in July 2006. After the incident, I was subjected to badgering and bullying by the investigating officer. Did he listen to me? No, he did not. I was basically told that they were going for a conviction with or without me.
Since there was a no-contact order in place that I did not want or support, I called my "victim's advocate" in the prosecutor's office. I was told that I could not speak at Jim's arraignment, but that she would express my wishes of having the no-contact order lifted. I was also told that the prosecutor would not speak to me directly and that all communication would have to be done through the advocate. What does that say to a "victim"? It's pretty clear that the advocacy is on the prosecution's behalf and not on the side of the victim at all.
Sentencing was Dec. 29, 2006. At that time, the judge still refused to lift the no-contact order despite my pleas for it to be removed. I had to request another hearing and work through my fiancé's public defender to get on the court docket. After the third attempt, the order was finally lifted in February. I believe the only reason it was lifted was because I was able to articulately express my feelings about the incident and the fact that I had sought individual counseling on my own. I got more help through my company's human resources department and employee assistance program than was ever offered by the "advocate" program.
Due to the charges that were filed and the fact that Jim was basically forced to plead guilty, he lost his job. We have lost our car to repossession, and I have had to file Chapter 13 just to save our home. I consider us lucky, though. I do have a good job, and both Jim and I are committed to each other despite the system's every attempt to keep us from being together.
I choose not to be labeled by the system or anyone else. I have a mind, a voice, and strong convictions of what is best for me and don't need people that haven't a clue as to who I am telling me how I should act, who I should be in a relationship with, or what is best for me and the course of my life.Nancy Campbell
DEAR EDITOR: Bravo to Nina Shapiro.A very good start in documenting the systematic paternalism practiced by the courts and a number of prosecutors' offices.
The "justice" system was designed to reach a "relative truth" through the adversarial process. As an adversary, no prosecutor wants his main witnesses living with the accused, which is exactly what happens in most DV cases. Hence that no-contact order—which is couched in terms of "helping the victim"—is really just good strategy to win the court case. Unfortunately, many judges follow lock-step with the prosecutor.
Judges also remember that in 1984 the Legislature adopted the King County Prosecutor's Sentencing Reform Act. Instead of retraining police on DV or creating some diversion program, the Legislature simply took away police discretion and ordered them to arrest someone—anyone—at every domestic violence call. Fighting DV had become a "cause," and causes, as we all know, produce a certain insidious form of zealotry whose disciples usually shoot first and ask questions later.
Today, all those boutique DV courts and special DV calendars with very special DV judges and quite special DV prosecutors, together with the hordes of "victim advocates" (who actually work for the prosecutor), have gone a long ways towards producing the troubling disconnect Nina Shapiro observed. Take anybody and feed them DV horror stories 24/7 and soon they will be lopsided in their thinking.
Certainly when the prosecutor and the judge and the advocates and the police can "all just work together," well, yes...umm, the system is more efficient. But, what is the message to a family?
Most of the victims I have interviewed are overwhelmed at the amount of pressure asserted by advocates and prosecutors to convict. They are routinely told that they must "stop the cycle" and fedlines to use in court, even though a virtual divorce and a degradation of their husband's ability to find work is often the very last thing that they want. Contrary to the thinking of a lot of twentysomething prosecutors, many couples do want to try to stay together and work it out. Maybe the rule should be that DV prosecutors should have 25 years of marriage under their belt.
It is one thing when the victim is immature, with little education and little wherewithal and few friends or relatives to turn to, and is subjected to the whims of an abusive spouse. In such cases, a no-contact order for protection is absolutely correct. But the courts no longer seem to be able to distinguish.
A family can go through at least $10,000 in court costs, bail, fines, treatment, and legal fees before a court/prosecutor is satisfied it has "broken the cycle"—and that does not include the loss in long-term earnings for the husband, now marked for the rest of his life as a DV offender. Is it any wonder that more and more smart women simply keep their mouths shut and after the arrest simply refuse to cooperate?James Martin Roe
THE EX-CHIEF SPEAKS
DEAR EDITOR: Nina Shapiro's "Victim Without a Voice" is a superb, thought-provoking article. It illuminates both the promise and the problems of mandatory arrest in domestic-violence cases. The law can backfire, making matters worse all around. As I wrote in my recent book [Breaking Rank:A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing], our ultimate goal ought to be to return some measure of discretion to police officers and, by implication, toprosecutors.
ButI don't think we're there yet, especially in jurisdictions that stillminimize the crime, turning their backs on DV victims, many of whom areaggressively stalked, some of whom wind up dead. But there arestepswe can take until we've firmlyinstitutionalized victim/survivor safety as the ruling mentality within law enforcement and the justice system.
One step would be to make an early, nonjudicial finding about those temporary protection orders. Dispute-resolution experts, carefully selected, well-trained, and sensitive to the dynamics of domestic violence, could make a timely,pre-judicial determination in cases where the victim/survivor asserts her (or his) desire not to be covered by aprotection order.
Mandatory arrest is a crude tool, no doubt about it. It's savedlives, damaged others. On balance, I'd keep it on the books, modifyits application. Butwe should never return to the day when the act of securing a protection order was an added nightmare for a victim of intimate partner violence.Norm Stamper
Former Seattle Police Chief
STORY WASN'T OPTIMISTIC
DEAR EDITOR: As a romance novel writer, reader, and president of the local Eastside chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA), I was disappointed with the cover of the Oct. 31 issue. Using a classic "clinch" cover to draw attention to the article debases the intent of romance novels, which our advocacy group defines as: A Central Love Story [With] an Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending.
Last weekend, the Greater Seattle RWA chapter held its annual writers' conference and book signing. A portion of the proceeds and other fulldonations went to DAWN, Domestic Abuse Women'sNetwork of South King County. Please keep these facts in mind when considering the use of a clinch cover to depict "men" "having their way"withfemale victims.Lacey Kumanchik
IRONISTS FOR MCDERMOTT
HIYA, EDITOR! Thank you to Aimee Curl for enlightening me about Jim McDermott ["Our Man in Lesotho," Oct. 10]. I now emphatically do not want a congressman representing me who travels around the world trying to gain insight on international affairs and spreading goodwill on behalf of our country's battered diplomatic reputation. Why can't McDermott be more like our president and ignore such nonsense? It is a waste of my time, and come next November, I plan on voting McDermott out of office. Oh wait, no, I won't because I am a lazy voter just like all the other "voters in countless other districts who lazily return their incumbents year after year." Thank you, Aimee Curl, for enlightening me about that, too.Maly OudommahavanhSeattle
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