Legal Options for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
The criminal justice system was not designed to support, or even empower, survivors of sexual abuse. It’s goal, to punish those who victimize others, is certainly important, and the vast majority of prosecutors are good people who genuinely want to help. But where survivors are concerned, the system often falls short. We’ve spoken to many survivors who have honestly felt used by the system, treated as little more than pieces of evidence. That’s not to say we don’t believe in the sort of justice sought by the criminal justice system, but its treatment of survivors leaves much to be desired.
Justice itself is a tricky concept, one that’s often used without much attention to what it actually means. In the criminal system, justice is a matter of proving that a person committed some act that society doesn’t condone. We punish them for it, putting them in jail, listing them on sex offender registries and, most commonly, fining them an amount of money. That’s justice, according to the criminal system: the state or federal government gets some cash and an offender gets put away.