Great advice for anyone seeking justice for the crimes they’ve survived
If you or someone you know is facing the uncertainty of seeking justice for the crimes you or your child have survived, then you need to read this article ! Written by our awesome survivor author Genevieve Elliot and written using her own experiences and her experiences in the FACAA court support program this is a must for anyone going through the court process.
If you are going through it or you have gone through it and would like an explanation for what went on, or you know someone about to face the trials of the courtroom feel free to tag them, or share this post on their walls. This info is an absolute must for anyone facing the pursuit of justice. ———
Facing the immediate period of time after a child or adult discloses childhood abuse can be very draining and overwhelming. Not only are our emotions all over the place, often affecting our appetite, ability to sleep and ability to function normally – we are also often faced with the confusion and turmoil of a legal case.
Most people have never set foot inside a court room, let alone had to deal with terms such as “suppression order” “non-publication order” “adjourned” and so on in our day to day lives. Unfortunately, police officers and prosecutors are very busy people and they often don’t have the time to explain things fully when we would like them to. Some people also find that they just don’t feel comfortable with the support officer assigned to them.
None of us here at FACAA are qualified to give legal advice, but we can share our own experiences in the hope of helping others. Advocacy groups such as ours can provide things like court support, someone to discuss the issues of concern with and someone to make phone calls or other contacts that you are struggling with doing yourself – depending on your individual circumstances and location.
Some of the things I have come across in the journey from victim to survivor for many people are ;
“There’s a suppression order. Can I still discreetly let my child’s school know that this has happened so that they can be aware of my child’s needs?” – in short yes you can. You don’t need to go into details but you can have a private meeting with the school’s counsellor and let them know that your child has suffered a form of abuse and may need some extra care. In many cases the counsellor will then also have a couple of sessions with your child (if you agree to that) to check on how they are going. In many cases your state’s child protection body will have already informed the school also.
The suppression order however does mean that no one, including yourself, can publicly name the offender in relation to the charges in any way, nor can anyone identify the child/children as victims of those crimes. This includes but is not limited to social media, print media, television and radio. Sometimes people later apply for suppression orders to be removed but that is a very serious decision that is up to the individual.
“They said I don’t need to attend this court hearing, but I want to – am I allowed to?” – Yes. You can attend every time that the matter comes before the court if you wish to. If you are a witness for a trial, there will be sometimes when you are asked to wait outside the courtroom. This is simply so that no one can say your evidence was guided or tainted by what you heard in the courtroom.
“I didn’t understand some of what the prosecutor/police officer/support officer/magistrate said – can I ask questions?” – You can’t speak within the courtroom unless invited to do so but you can ask for things to be explained further. If the issue was something, the Magistrate said, ask your support officer to clarify for you. It’s a good idea to write things down so you won’t forget what to ask about, and also to have someone such as a close friend, relative or advocate with you at court and in meetings where it is permitted as they may notice something you missed or be able to explain things to you.
“I have/my child has been asked to supply a Victims Impact Statement. How do we know what to write? Is it necessary?” A VIS is taken into account by the sentencing magistrate when deciding what length of sentence to hand down. Maximum sentence limits and other protocols still bind them, but it is a way for the impact upon the victim to be heard and weighed up. Many people also feel more empowered through having their say.
A sentence can be handed down without it, but it is a great way for victims to feel validated and heard. Advocacy groups, your witness support officer or your counsellor if you are seeing one are able to assist you in how to word this document, though it is important that it reflects your experience and feelings, no one else’s (other than when writing on behalf of a very young child). When it comes time for the statement to be presented in court, you can read it out loud yourself or nominate someone else to do that for you, or it can simply be handed to the magistrate for him/her to read and consider.
“They said I will have to give evidence in court, but I am scared of facing him/her. Is there a way around this?” If you have been subpoenaed to provide evidence then you must do so but your safety and psychological comfort are important. In some cases you can give evidence via video link from another room – ask your advocate, support worker or the prosecutor for information about this option.
“The offender will be appearing by video link. Will they be able to see me?” This depends largely on the court room and what cameras have been turned on. If you have concerns, speak to your advocate or support worker as early as possible before the court date so that they can try to arrange for you to be seated out of the camera’s range or for particular cameras to be turned off.
“I’m worried that the sentence won’t be long enough. If that happens, can I lodge an appeal?” Unfortunately not in the vast majority of cases. In extreme circumstances the DPP can lodge an appeal. The offender can appeal if they feel that the sentence is too long and if they have legal grounds to appeal, so that is something that you should consider in case it happens. In rare cases, an offender has actually had their sentence lengthened on appeal though.
We all go through the feelings of being “scattered”, unable to take in what is being said, trouble with remembering things, being too shy or overwhelmed to ask questions. There is no shame in that and you are not “going crazy” – you are dealing with a horrific and overwhelming tragedy in your life. Keep moving forward warrior – you’ve got this (GE)
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