Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Compulsory testifying for victims of sexual and domestic violence is Antithetical to Victim-Centred Justice

We are very concerned about the recent article by Amanda Marcotte in Slate which approves of the arrest as a material witness of a victim of sexual violence in Washington. The specifics of the case Marcotte references are here, however, rather than addressing that  case in particular we want to make our position clear on forcing victims to testify since similar laws exist in the UK as well.

As an organisation, we do not support any laws or policies which require or force victims to testify. We believe that the justice system must ensure that the rights and physical and mental health of victims are of primary concern. This means that the decision to testify must be that of the victim without coercion, threats of incarceration, or incarceration itself. We do support laws which allow for prosecutions based on witness testimony of others, such as in the case of domestic violence wherein the police can press charges without the victims participation. We do not support laws which put the needs and safety of victims secondary to prosecution or push for prosecutions without acknowledging the possible consequences for the victim long-term.

We are very concerned by the inherent victim blaming in Marcotte's piece:

The sad, unavoidable truth is that we have to decide what's more important to us: putting abusive men in jail or letting their victims opt out of cooperating with the prosecution as they see fit. Always erring on the side of victim sensitivity means putting some very bad men back out on the streets, where they will likely attack someone else. If that's the price that you feel is worth paying, OK, but it's also understandable that prosecutors might try to do everything within their power to convict a guy who likes tying women to chairs and assaulting them.

The only person responsible for sexual and/ or domestic violence is the perpetrator. It is NEVER the victim's fault and insinuating that a victim is responsible for a rapist committing further crimes is reprehensible. It is not the responsibility of women to keep other women safe & to suggest that a victim *must* testify in order to protect other women is the insidious type of victim blaming that our organisation campaigns against. Complicity in this type of victim blaming is common, but not unavoidable. If we want victims to have faith in the system, their needs must be prioritised and that includes them making the choice whether or not they want to testify. It does not involve blaming them for the actions of the perpetrator or criminalising them for not being in a position to testify.


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4 thoughts on “Compulsory testifying for victims of sexual and domestic violence is Antithetical to Victim-Centred Justice

  • TheRealThunderChild says:

    I’ve said myself that we must never punish women for the choices forced on them by men.
    Like sex selective abortion. If that even happens, and there’s no documentary proof it does, then it isn’t “cultural femicide” , it’s just a symptom.
    And it isn’t for us to tell a woman how to protect herself.

  • […] Don’t use your platforms to support the abuse of women of colour. […]

  • so sad says:

    although i understand the frustration that some perpetrators are let back out onto the streets to re offend, why should that responsibility lie with the victim that was first abused, and in all fairness even when victims of rape or dv do testify, so often the perps are let off or have such a pathetic sentence that it hardly seems worth it, it just upsets me so much that victims are constantly the ones hurting, first by there abuser and then by the system, so until the system changes there will never be justice.
    i was told by someone i trusted that i should report something heinous that happened to me because it could happen to someone else and i said i couldnt do it because i felt so much shame and that person went behind my back and told anyway, that one act has made me feel that i can no longer trust anyone,
    it has to be the victims choice and it has to be when they are ready, putting me in prison would not have made the slightest difference, because i would have still been more scared of my abuser than being in jail, in fact i would have had more freedom in prison.

  • […] believe that the justice system must put the health and safety of the victim first and that it is inhumane and unethical to incarcerate victims for refusing to […]