As the domestic violence/sexual assault advocate for a small, tribal agency, I get together with other workers in the same fields. We talk about what is happening, and share ideas for helping others. Most of us really care about helping people, even the court personnel and law enforcement types I talk with. (Yes, even the latter . . . they are not all in it for the chance to drive fast and use weapons.) Recently we became concerned about the local district attorney’s office declining to prosecute cases for what seemed like discriminatory and unfair reasons. While looking deeper at the issues behind his actions, we started looking at numbers.
About 2,000 cases (of all kinds) per year are submitted to our local district attorney. There are three people in his office to handle all those cases, and that is counting the DA himself. Even the quite-possibly-inept prosecutor on loan from the Attorney General’s office doesn’t take up much of the slack. We have two judges and two courtrooms. There is no way they can handle all those cases, so they are looking for ways to plea bargain or not prosecute. They are most apt to go ahead with cases that won’t take much time, or where the perpetrator is very dangerous.
That’s where it hurts. To the woman who just got beat within an inch of her life, her perp is very dangerous. To the girl who just got raped by some jerk, and is afraid he will come back for more, and lives in fear — her perp is very dangerous. But if the case may not be “winnable,” it may not go forward.
Here we are helping people understand that domestic violence and sexual assault are not acceptable, and the court system is ignoring these cases because of economics. How do we expect to stop this violence, if there are no teeth in the laws?
Admittedly, prevention would be the best option. Raise children who understand that respect and consideration are the way to act, and that we don’t assault people. Both of these crimes are about power and control, so we need to raise children who believe they have some power and control in their lives. Children who have been respected and loved. This is not a quick fix, and is going to take a lot of work on everyone’s part . . . even those who are not parents.
Meanwhile, what do we do about the wounded, sick souls who commit these assaults? Must admit, listening to the stories of survivors over the years has hardened me. Since many of the perps are serial abusers, I find myself thinking the world would be better off without them. We would certainly have less of a population problem.
Sigh . . .