Lately I’ve been revising my YA novel about domestic and dating violence for my agent. In the process, I sent the “court chapter” to a friend whose husband is a former judge. She brought up a couple issues re: the victim of DV meeting her lawyer for first time in court, prosecutor vs.: private lawyer, civil vs. criminal court, etc. based on typical court procedure.
I realized I was basing my court info on cases I’d been involved with years ago (mostly foster care and adoption). Time to do some research.
So I talked with a Victim Advocate at the domestic violence shelter where I volunteer. She was a big help and it was great to hear that domestic violence cases in CT are actually treated differently in court these days from other assault cases.
For one thing, the victim doesn’t have to go to court as much, unless the defendant (the batterer) asks for a jury trial. Also, lawyers, Victim Advocates from the shelter, and the State’s Attorney Investigator always interrogate the defendant (batterer), but listen to the Victim Advocate’s report on the abuse, and interview the victim only when necessary. This means that the victim, already highly anxious and stressed, is not submitted to multiple trips to court unless the batterer chooses a jury trial.
This was mostly good news. It implies that the court understands who the real victim is here and avoids increasing her stress by allowing other professionals to share the facts she has provided of the crimes against her.
They aren’t discounting her as a witness. They just don’t make her repeat her pre-trial testimony ad infinitum to one court official after another. IMO, this is significant progress.
Of course, we’d really be cookin’ if we didn’t have to give the batterer the choice of jury over a judge. Jury trial drags the court process out for the victim and costs her much more money and anxiety than trial by judge.
Which of course is just what the batterer wants.‘