Last week during District Court’s criminal dv docket the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutors did their level best to present evidence showing grounds for conviction in each case they pursued. On this particular day, however, there was not a single victim present in the courtroom to testify.
Going to court to face an abuser is an emotional ordeal that may also put victims at risk for additional abuse. Testifying often requires multiple days off from work or school. It is not surprising that many victims fail to appear.
Evidence in one case that went to trial included a photograph of the victim’s bloodied finger, a police officer’s testimony, and a recording of the victim’s call to 911 sounding highly distressed and saying that her boyfriend was hitting her. The judge found the defendant not guilty, however, primarily because the victim was not there to complete the story.
What if every victim could meet a court companion outside the courthouse who would stay with her (or him) from start to finish, answer questions, provide support and create a barrier between the victim and the offender and his friends or family? Might more victims come to court to testify?