By Cherry Simpson
When I first saw these words they were in reference to cancer, a disease, which can be life threatening but in light of medical advancement and deterrents, cancer rates are dropping.
But we can’t say the same about domestic violence, we need to ask “why not?’ Shouldn’t law reflect reality? My thoughts go to my daughter Regan Martin and her struggle to escape abuse; she is a spousal rape and abuse survivor.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the justice system supported domestic violence victims with the same love and understanding the medical community shows a cancer victim? Undergoing chemotherapy is scary and so is going to court. But there’s no TLC for victims’ in court
My daughter spent hours at the Will County Courthouse (where accused wife murderer Drew Peterson is regularly seen) in front of Judge Schoenbecht. She spent months and lots money going to court, the defense routinely impugned her character, and the cost was hers to bear. Hard to believe, in America, it is the victim who is put on trial and sentenced - criminal and victim rights hang in an ugly imbalance.
On Nov 18, 2008 we sat waiting, on a hard wooden bench, in the hall outside room 405 of Will County Court. This day Regan had help, her pro-bono victim’s attorney Rachel Morse, and her victim’s advocate Susan Murphy-Milano, her grandmother and I were there to support her. The DA read the lethality assessment done by Harvard Law Professor Diane Rosenfeld. The court was given a letter written by the Cindy Bischof Foundation and other supporting documents.
It was time for the truth. I was sworn in and with great emotion and pain in my voice I read Regan’s Victim’s Impact Statement. I remember how quiet it became as I read. From the stand I could see the convicted felon, inmate R58888, in his blue jumpsuit, his chains rattling as he shifted in his chair. Behind him sat his mother, sister and grandma. I saw tears in the eye of the court reporter. I saw love on my daughter’s face as I spoke her words.
The VIS was also sent to the probation officer assigned to do the pre-sentencing report in the weeks prior to sentencing and the Prison Review Board after sentencing. The victim can frequently significantly influence the sentencing and probation.
The Victim’s Impact Statement helps to balance the scales of justice for victims of abuse.