Why are women not “heard” in court?

The recent Amber Heard/Johnny Depp legal proceedings:

Social networks have massively opposed it. According to social media experts, fake accounts on Twitter targeted her, called her a liar and amplified enough positive messages about her to stir public opinion. Many logged out of the hearings, essentially saying “pox in both of their homes.” Others thought he hit her, and she hit him. There was mutual abuse. So what? Some commentators saw a deeper underlying problem. In an op-ed in the NYTimes, Michele Goldberg wrote, “There seems to be a broader misogynistic frenzy at work, however, a feature of the deeply reactionary moment we live in.

Misogyny exists

A United Nations gender study revealed that 90% of people are prejudiced against women. When this “implicit bias” manifests itself in court, it results in injustice to women. When the outcome involves allegations of domestic violence, more women are discouraged from coming forward and telling their stories for fear of not being believed. More men are encouraged to continue their abusive behavior.

The “mutual abuse” fallacy

Most domestic violence experts do not believe in the concept of ‘mutual abuse’, believing that when two parties engage in violence against each other, one party is the primary abuser, Ruth Glenn, President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News as reported by Vox.

Why doesn’t the Me Too movement help more victims of domestic violence?

In high-profile “Me Too” cases such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Roger Ailes and Prince Andrew, the results were largely based on the number of accusers who came forward, a number so large that he calls into question the credibility. of each accused man. Criminal convictions, public disgrace and loss of positions of power were the inevitable results. When it comes to an accusing woman and an aggressor man alone inside a house, the problem is more serious and deeper. He is often more likely to be believed than her, resulting in a miscarriage of justice.

Why is it more difficult for women to be believed when they report psychological violence?

A plaintiff or petitioner in a domestic violence case, like any other civil case, submits to scrutiny and questioning by the abuser’s attorneys. In each case, the court is faced with a balancing exercise between the rights of two parties: the alleged victim and the alleged aggressor, and the application of the laws of his state.

For a victim of domestic violence to be able to give credible testimony without evidence of physical abuse, they must have a “perfect” trial record:

  1. Police incident reports;
  2. Medical and/or psychiatric records showing that she had to receive real-time treatment for the abuse;
  3. Detailed photographic evidence of his injuries;
  4. Real-time video and/or audio recordings of incidents as they occurred;
  5. Detailed testimony that she can give in a simple narrative in court during a trial.

Most victims are emotionally distraught by the time they can actually speak with a lawyer or in court. Few have archives. Few went to the police or filed a complaint because they were too afraid or because they were too afraid that their attacker would find out. Few have videos and/or audio recordings of the abuse.

If they spoke to a domestic violence counselor, they are charged with creating a narrative that fits the definition of domestic violence provided to them by the counselor. For this reason, nearly half of domestic violence cases go unreported. Submitting to a hearing where your personal life is scrutinized and your credibility is attacked is personally painful and frightening.

What can the courts do about this?

Judges need to be trained in implicit biases against women. They need training on how victims often present themselves and how the facts may not line up perfectly, especially in a domestic violence case. We must give more sensitivity to women. The social sciences must play a role in the training of judges.

Judges must learn to consider why a woman might stay in an abusive relationship, why she might not go to the police, and why she might not have a record or proof of injury. Why are there no physical injuries? Why his fear may be exacerbated over time. Why she might even come back to him. The court must consider these possibilities with understanding and compassion.

If it is a jury case, cameras should not be allowed in the courtroom. While Johnny Depp’s lawyers can argue that social media played no part in the verdict, the fact that jurors went home every night to their families, who no doubt knew they were jurors during his trial and streamed it or read about it online undoubtedly influenced some of the jurors.

Neither women nor men are by nature liars.

There is no natural propensity for either sex to lie. The implicit biases against women in particular, often apparent in social media and in society at large, suggest the opposite when it comes to women.

About Georgia Duvall

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