What a Judge Sentencing a Domestic Violence Victim to Jail Reveals About Common Beliefs

A domestic violence victim from Mary Lake, Florida failed to show up to a subpoena to testify against her abuser. This type of behavior is common among victims of abuse. Many victims feel overwhelmed by the court system, fear retaliation of their abuser, or decide they do not want to be subject to a victim-blaming court environment when they are already emotionally unstable. This is why many states have a no-drop policy, which ensures that domestic violence cases will proceed despite victim nonparticipation.

Despite this, Seminole Country Judge Jerri Collins of Florida reprimanded the victim last summer on July 30th for failing to show. Last October, a video of the Judge berating the victim was released. Collins made threats to the victim like, "You think you're going to have anxiety now? You haven't seen anxiety". Collins proceeded to find the victim guilty for contempt of court and sentenced the victim to three days in jail. After much backlash, Collins admitted that she acted in poor judgment and agreed to take a course in anger management and domestic violence.

Collin's reaction to the domestic abuse victim reveals a common belief that many Americans hold about domestic violence victims. Many believe that the "victim bears some part of the responsibility for her own predicament" (Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom, pg. 30). In other words, it is unfortunately common to assume that victims are responsible for most, or even all, their abusive circumstance. When people make this assumption, they operate under the belief that the victim is acting rationally, despite all the traumatic experiences he or she may have undergone.

Making assumptions like this changes how bystanders try to help victims. Operating under the system that victims can just leave an abusive situation, people are less likely to support the dedication of significant resources to helping him or her leave. Instead many organizations and charities are only committed to helping a victim immediately after an attack or after the victim has gathered the courage, financial resources, and emotional strength to leave the abuser.

My organization, Second Chance Employment Services (SCES), understands that assuming the victim can easily leave an abusive relationship is not a rational assumption. SCES is dedicating to providing domestic abuse victims with the tools, from resume building to job training, necessary to secure job placement and permanently leave an abusive relationship.