is an online manual for advocating for victims of violence
against women in the criminal justice system. This text
in no way covers all the circumstances you'll encounter.
Our hope is that it will serve as one resource among many
in developing your criminal justice advocacy skills.
We focus on the
criminal justice system because the criminal justice system
is the only institution in our society that's vested with
the powers and authority to intervene and stop the violence,
to carry out a criminal investigation, to protect the victim,
to put the perpetrator under control, and to prosecute and
provide justice. At the same time that the criminal justice
system is vested with these exclusive powers, too many criminal
justice officials remain deeply resistant to implementing
these powers on behalf of women. Despite advances, victims
of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse all too frequently
continue to encounter denials of their rights to equal protection
and equal justice in the criminal justice system.
against and mistreatment of victims, failures to write reports,
half hearted investigations, failure to collect evidence,
prosecutorial refusals to file charges despite sufficient
evidence, give-away plea bargains, slap-on-the wrist sentencing,
and overall disregard continue despite well tailored laws
and policies that provide officers with ample powers to
intervene effectively. When your clients encounter these
obstacles, your skillful advocacy is essential to making
the system work for women.
A key problem
for advocates is that we have no official powers for advocating
in a system that is invested with more unchecked power than
any other government entity. This means women's advocates
need a sound knowledge of the system, an unshakeable conviction
in women's rights to equal protection and justice, and a
courageous willingness to fight for those rights. And you
need a big bag of tricks in order to succeed in the David
and Goliath dimensions of the struggle that ensues when
law enforcement refuses to act properly on behalf of your
client. Standing between women who are terrorized by violence
on the one side, and the sometimes powerful abuses and intimidations
of law enforcement on the other, is not for the faint of
however, is far from hopeless. The picture in the criminal
justice system is not monolithic. Quite the opposite, it
is in a very lively state of transition. Throughout the
system there are officials who do want to move forward and
who are using their powers to protect women from violence.
Moreover, both the public and victims themselves are more
and more willing to make their righteous demands be heard
so that law enforcement deal seriously with violence against
women and children. All these positive forces can be powerful
allies in helping you fight for your client's rights to
protection and justice when those rights are being denied.
The skill of your advocacy, in this broiling transition
time of push and pull, is often the deciding factor that
can focus the immense powers of the criminal justice system
onto liberating your client's life from violence.
Our great hope
is that this handbook will help you obtain the protection
and justice that are essential to your clients' liberty
and to ending the violence and oppression of women everywhere.
We also hope this text will spark your thinking about the
larger strategies that are needed to reconstruct a criminal
justice system that responds equitably and respects the
rights of all people.
Throughout this text we assume that you already
know and practice ethical principles of advocacy, foremost
of which is the cardinal rule that before you take any
action on behalf of your client you have her fully informed
This manual emphasizes what may go wrong with
the criminal justice system response. Naturally, this
is because when things are going well, your role is primarily
educational and supportive. It's when things go wrong
that your skillful intervention is most needed.
Though the legal references in this text are based on
California law, we hope we've put this together in a way
that will be useful to women's advocates anywhere in the
world. The problem of law enforcement unwillingness to
implement their powers on behalf of women exists in every
corner and community in the world.