Well, I can’t speak to criminal cases. However, I can speak to Domestic Violence cases, and what I experienced. Actually, my case was lumped in with all the divorce cases so the reality is, it was not a Domestic Violence case at all. But, in my opinion, it should have been then so that now, perhaps, what I am still going through since the divorce case was finalized over two years ago, would also be resolved.
Here’s the thing. I had zero idea how to find a “good” attorney, in a town I was not from, nor did I understand how to get pro bono council or even a reduced rate. Plus, I was intimidated by anything that walked much less an attorney. So, I connected with one female attorney I found online whom I sent a 12-page dissertation of “my case”. Not having time for my situation, she referred me to another female attorney whom, by default of ignorance and foreknowledge, I stayed with the whole case.
This attorney raised her rates midway through my case. My income had not gone up, but my debt to her was about to. In fact, I was working in sales trying to gain clients and was making ZERO. Fortunately, I had my savings to whittle down for her. Truly this was not her problem. Upon receipt of her letter letting me know she was raising her rates across the board, I, of course, did not need to stay with her. I actually liked her. I thought the world of her. It was my option to stay with her, so I did. I also thought it only took 12 months to get a divorce in North Carolina, so I stuck it out not wanting to have to go through everything I had already with a new person. Little did I know it would take 18 months to get the divorce. I paid thousands up front. I ended up still owing over $15,000 when it was all said and done. She then sent my abuser my physical address with the final paperwork.
How do you like them apples?
Oh…and the rub? My abuser has not paid a dime in COURT ORDERED alimony. All of that combined plummeted her from the greatness I had attributed to her care of me and my case. Who was at fault? Both she and the “justice” system.
What he owes me will just go to the attorney, and it will be a wash (or loss) for me financially and something I have to overcome mentally and emotionally continuously (still) because there is no closure. Meanwhile, every month I pay this woman an amount I can afford to pay her, and at this rate, it will be many, many years before the debt is paid in full.
Here is the reason I believe the justice system is not so just and should probably be renamed to the legal system. As it currently appears, the system works really, really well for the perpetrator. Not the victim. I have some ideas how we could change this which I will share in the future, but for now I want to focus on one variation of a normal day in the life of a victim wrangling her way through litigation just to get a divorce from someone she fears. So, let’s get to it.
Let’s just say the filer for the divorce is a woman. She is in fear of her husband. Regardless of opinion by the courts, she fears her husband. She has left her husband for this very reason. She gives the attorney every sordid detail of why she wants out. Maybe she’s even recorded / video-taped her testimony. She has photos, paperwork, text messages, emails, all correspondences, doctor notes / files / more photos, a copy of a past or current restraining order, witnesses…absolute, lock-down, evidence for her reasons why she wants off the merry-go-round and why SHE IS IN FEAR OF THIS MAN.
1) Even though she has all the evidence, she now gets to go face-to-face with him 2) in court. [But the courts think how nice of a job they have done by having uniformed gunmen around to protect the victims “in case he does something because he truly just might” which for a polarized-in-fear-person this “guard” represents everything she is in fear of and respects at the same time, so the courts 3) without comprehending that she has to walk from a parking garage or somewhere from outside the building where there are NO guards to get her into the building forces her to 4) encounter these guns first thing as she is processed through security clearance to actually get into the building where 5) clearing that, she is left with having to figure out where to go next and because she is 6) hyper sensitive and suffering PTSD, her anxiety level is off the charts and she can’t see the information desk across the foyer and knows she cannot be late so 7) she figures out to take the elevator not knowing if at any moment she will be in the presence of her abuser but because 8) he hates cops and her and being responsible for his debts and normally gets away with walking away from anything he doesn’t see as good for himself, maybe he won’t be there and then 9) finds the court room where it will all go down only to 10) find her attorney not there.]
Every single time.
Alone. [But the courts say, bring a friend. That will help you. Sure, up to a point, yes. When you know your abuser knows how to use a long-range rifle, and you know he hates you, and you know he doesn’t like to be found out, how does this help her in the parking garage? When she is in complete fear (now phobia) of this person, how does this help her with PTSD? It cannot nor will it ever.]
On a witness stand. [Inside the arena. No longer part of the audience. You are up to bat. This is it. You have to tell your story. Which will make him mad. And he’s glaring at you. You have to prove to the court that you are worthy of…anything. You barely know your name at this point, and now you have to share details…relive memories, sounds, all of the ugliness…because early on your attorney suggested you could probably get alimony…and now you’re here to say why you think you deserve anything at all.]
Sitting next to a judge. [No intimidation there.]
Facing her abuser. [Who the courts courteously allow for him to sit and kill her with his eyes from the safety of his chair next to his attorney.]
She has to speak into a microphone. [And the only reason that is there is because her throat refuses to produce clear, audible sounds of its own at this point.]
She has been prepared by her attorney about what might be asked. In my case, the question was asked, and the only thing that came out of my mouth was, “Well….” and before another word escaped, his attorney jumped up, yelled something and said whatever it was I was going to say was hearsay or something else meaning it wasn’t relevant, and my comment / I was seemingly dismissed as a person. The judge ruled in my favor none-the-less, and my abuser was COURT ORDERED to pay alimony.
“Do you understand this blah, blah, blah?” “Yes.” said the really pissed-off abuser in the safety of his chair next to his attorney. The organized voice of the judge who never seemed to look up from his note taking, declares the amount to be paid and when the amount MUST first be paid. “Do you understand?” “Yes.” Dismissed. “You may step down.”
With a thousand questions brimming just below consciousness, I walk away on wobbly legs, not breathing, and am under a false sense of “it’s finally over.”
It is not. (continued here)
Hi! I’m MJ! And I’m a survivor of Domestic Violence. It has taken me four years to get to the point that I can now share my heart with you and not freak out about what someone might think of me.
With all the help I’ve received from family, new friends, and professionals in the spiritual and mental health arenas, I know had I NOT gotten the help I needed, I’d still be struggling.
What I hope to do is help other survivors get a grip faster than it has taken me. Through VictoryLife House, I have developed a platform for survivors to meet the professionals they need at a reduced rate. Just for them! Just for VictoryLife House! Just because I believe survivors are worth it!
Life without abuse IS an option. Choose life!
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