Mistrust in The Justice System Among Women And Children

The criminal justice system was created to deliver justice to the public by punishing and convicting the guilty and assisting them to stop offending while safeguarding the innocent.  The basic purpose of the justice system is to deliver a fair, efficient, accountable, and effective process of justice for the public. Held as the final say in all disputes, the sole purpose of the justice system is righting wrongs. However, despite its growth over the decades, the justice system lacks fair treatment and equality for all. According to Ossei-Owusu (2010), victims are not treated with the same level of respect and seriousness. Unequal treatment in the U.S. justice system is noted based on the offenders’ gender, race, and ethnicity, among other things. Women, particularly single mothers, are highly incarcerated for non-violence offenses leaving their children at the mercy of relatives and other well-wishers.

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In some cases, the same women are unable to receive justice when assaulted due to a lack of enough evidence and blamed for what they experienced in the hands of the offenders. In addition to this, the system has been practicing racial victimhood, where Latino and black men are always more endangered and vulnerable to the criminal justice system and crime (Ossei-Owusu, 2010). This lack of equal treatment makes it hard for some victims to receive justice and for some offenders to be fairly evaluated, resulting in the mistrust in the justice system. This paper evaluates the mistrust in the justice system. The article is founded on the thesis statement that the true injustice of the victim is not the crime itself, but the lack of faith in the justice system.  

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Unequal Treatment in Justice System

The justice system has been found to discriminate on how it treats women and children who come to seek justice. According to Worden (2003), women are likely to fall victim to sexual assault, domestic abuse, and rape. When this happens, victims tend to seek legal assistance from the police with the hope of receiving justice and having their assaulters punished. However, this is not always the case; women who seek help sometimes do encounter skeptical and even suspicious and hostile attitudes on the practitioners’ part. Regardless of reforms aimed at directing violence responsibility on perpetrators instead of victims, research proposes that some frontline prosecutors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers still endorse rape myths and attribute spousal abuse to women provocations or failures. Sometimes, these cases, especially marital rapes, are treated with lightweight compared to other cases, making it hard for the involved women victims to receive the anticipated or required justice. Moreover, the adversarial process of the criminal court imposes strong defendants’ protections and high proof standards. This adversarial process enforces still expectations for victims’ participation, and it judges’ liability based on concrete evidence regarding particular events. These expectations might be played out during the proceedings in a manner that they are intimidating and coercive, and thus these requirements are at odds concerning the privacy and safety of the victim. The courts are normally structured to react to cases where parties are confrontational, antagonistic, and strangers. They are not used to complainants who contain family associations with perpetrators (Worden, 2003). In this regard, women end up not receiving the justice they deserve. 

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Children are likely victims of child neglect, physical and sexual abuse from their parents or close relatives. Similar to women, children are also likely to experience equal treatment in the justice system, especially when a child is required to testify against their parents or guardians. In most cases, there is a fear of life after making that statement. Moreover, children are highly likely to fall for threats given to prevent them from giving their statements. Others may go to the extent of coaching children on what to say and what not to say, based on the anticipated outcome. The fear and need for indisputable prove to punish the offender makes it hard for such children to receive the justice that they deserve. In most cases, the children who are unable to give their statements, due to fear, end up not getting the justice they deserve and in most cases, they are likely to experience a continuation of the abuse with nowhere else to seek for assistance (Corteen & Steele, 2018).

Complexity in Proving Crimes Committed Against Children and Women

According to Saunders (2018), one person’s word over another’s is a usual phrase in the criminal justice system while addressing rape. This explains attrition issues in rape cases that create a justice gap. Hohl and Stanko (2015) argue that rape cases report a low rate of conviction, which can be attributed to the specific rape case characteristics. Generally, rape cases lack any objective or physical evidence, and it boils down to the word of one person against another. The absence of objective evidence implies that these cases frequently need jurors to evaluate whose story seems believable. With little in the manner of hard evidence to give guidance to the juries while making decisions, rape cases are precisely the form of cases that are open to attitudes and stereotypes influences. In the lack of independent evidence, judgments regarding the reliability and credibility of the accused and complainant’s conflicting accounts in rape cases are said to be vulnerable to rape myths; a phrase used to describe false beliefs, stereotyped, or prejudicial about rape, rapists and tape victims. These cases eventually are settled on one person’s word against another. Bigoted by the rape myth, juries, police, judges, prosecutors, and society in general routinely fail to trust rape victims’ words (Saunders, 2018).

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The complexity of sexual harassment cases is also enhanced by tying everything around the complainant characters. According to McGlynn (2017), evidence centering on the sexual history of the complainant has long been introduced in rape case proceedings, initially focusing on guaranteeing that prostitution evidence; the notorious bad character was presented in the court to challenge the credibility and infer consent. Succeeding cases tested the limits of this early case law, proposing that promiscuity evidence, if not prostitution, challenged the credibility of the complainant and implied consent. Inferences of this form regarding women’s likelihood and sexuality show that sexually active women are more likely to consent and less credible as witnesses are the twin myths that limitations on sexual history evidence have been attempting to counter (McGlynn, 2017).

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Another cause of complexity in crimes against women and children is the lack of physical evidence. In most cases, these crimes are hard to prove in a court of law, since most offenders ensure to interfere with forensic evidence that can be used against them in the court. Moreover, due to shame and other psychological distresses associated with sexual assault experience, most victims delay reporting the cases, making it too late to collect forensic evidence or any other physical evidence. This is mostly the case in rape cases or domestic violence cases. This delay results in the depletion of any physical evidence that could have assisted in reinforcing the case. Such cases make it hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender committed the crime against the victim (Morabito, Willians & Pattavina, 2019). Another challenge is that most of the victims are unwilling to testify against the offender, especially in a situation where the victim is not ready to fully end the relationship with the offender. These cases are highly common in domestic violence or rape happening in a romantic relationship. This unwillingness to testify makes it hard to convict the offender, reducing the number of convicted offenders in rape, among other similar cases significantly (Morabito, Willians & Pattavina, 2019).

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Justice System Letdown

As a while the justice system is full of misleads and letdowns for these victims, thus causing a deep, hurtful history of trust. In most cases, the prosecutor enters into a plea deal with the offender, where the offender is requested to plead guilty for a lesser punishment. This is mostly meant to reduce the time used in the trial, reduce the use of resources in a court case, and ease the court’s case burden. However, it also, in a way, denies victims the justice they deserve. Plea deals give the offender a lesser punishment for the crime committed; this means the victim get less satisfaction than anticipated. The victim feels short-changed as the prosecutor makes a deal that favors the offender and the court, but with no consideration of the victim. The victim is denied a chance to participate in the justice system and thus lacking the satisfaction she could have felt for ensuring that justice is served through the legal system (Morabito, Williams & Pattavina, 2019).

The plea deal ends up looking like a violation of the victims’ right to justice. The plea bargain does not consider that the victim could have managed to give convincing evidence that could have resulted in the offender’s sufficient punishment, even without pleading guilty. At the end of it all, the victim gets disregarded in the process of punishing the offender. The victim is also denied the satisfaction that one gets for ensuring the offender is punished accordingly. The case process plays a significant role in enhancing the psychological and emotional healing of a sexual assault victim.  Denying rape victims this chance makes it hard for them to heal completely and get the satisfaction required to be able to move one and live after the incident. Thus, the justice system ends up violating the victim’s rights (Patterson, 2011).  This goes against the justice system’s biblical purpose, which is working on behalf of God, to give justice to the poor, as illustrated in Psalm 82: 3-4.

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The court proceedings also fuel the mistrust of the justice system. In most cases, prosecutors work to discredit the victim of rape. In most cases, the prosecutor cross-examines the victim to defame them. Prosecutors apply the approach of tarnishing the victim character, by adopting the prostitution narrative or too ready to consent for sex, to discredit their statement in the court (Tyler, 1997). In the bid to discredit the victim, the prosecutor is likely to glorify the offender. This mostly happens where the prosecutor cites the offender’s history to demonstrate good character and the diminishing likelihood of engaging in the offense. The offender also tries to bring forth witnesses that can aid in cleaning the offender’s character and life, eliminating the intention of the offense or even the likelihood of engaging in the crime. The prosecutor tries to create a scenario whereby if it is true the offender was involved in the offense; then it was the victim’s fault; the victim seduced the offender in a rape case (Tyler, 1997).  

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Failed Justice System and Victims Hardships

Because of the justice system failure, most of these victims are sent back to endure worse hardships. In most cases, rape victims experience prejudice in society. They are mostly blamed for what happens to them. This narrative fits well when the case fails or when the offender is not punished for the committed crime (Jordan 2004). The victim then has to endure ridicule from the members of the society. In a situation where the victim maintains the offender’s relationship, the victim continues being assaulted since there is nowhere else to go for justice. This also happens to children who are abused and the offender manager to escape the punishment. The justice system’s failure to punish the offender empowers the offender to keep abusing the victim. The offender gets the chance to restrict the victim to take any measure to save herself from him by limiting her movements and cutting her communication with people who can rescue her. This makes the victim go through serious hardship and endure unbearable punishment for attempting to punish the offender (Cui et al., 2013). 

Improved Understanding of the Effective of Assault Crimes on Victims 

To better serve these special victims, there needs to be a much better understanding of the extent of damage these crimes have and a more honorable way of handling these cases. The justice system should ensure that the offender goes through the trial without trying any shortcuts, such as a plea deal. The prosecutor should develop a case without trying to discredit the victim to protect the defender. The prosecutor should take his or her time to study the case and acquire all necessary evidence and witness statements to be able to offer a fair approach in the trial. The prosecution should avoid entertaining attritions that are likely to initiate biased judgment. The defense lawyer should also work diligently by ensuring that the defense approach is not inclined to gender bias and use attrition, such as prostitution defense, to discredit the victim. The juries and judges should focus on the case, without employing any rape myth that focuses on discrediting the victim. This means the case should be judged based on fair trial, effective evaluation of the provided evidence, and witness statements, without assuming that the victim is lying among other gender-based misconceptions. By so doing, juries and judges will ensure to give a fair judgment that is just to both the victim and the offender (Patterson, 2011).).

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In a fair trial where juries and judges are not gendered biased, the sentencing should be done based on the severity of the crime. Rape and sexual assaults are capital crimes that are crimes against another individual. They destroy the inner being, resulting in psychological and emotional illnesses. They are also likely to result in physical damage to the human body. When not handled well, they can result in severe psychological trauma and suicidal thoughts or act among other internal damages. They also result in the destruction of personal will power, resulting in severe depression, loss of self-worth, and self-esteem. The justice system then needs to take these crimes seriously with the severity or importance that they deserve. This means, other than developing tactics to justify the offender’s act; the criminal justice system should focus on enacting justice and punishing the offender with punishment that matches the severity of the crime. This is proven by the provided evidence and witness statement, and information gathered from both the victim and offender cross-examination. The punishment offered should match the crime committed. The justice system should avoid giving punishment that does not match the crime committed. Severe punishment should be offered to those involved in severe crimes (Corteen & Steele, 2018). This move is supported by Exodus 21: 24-25 “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” The bible verse advocates for equal punishment that match the severity of the crime

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Based on this analysis, it is evident that there is a mistrust of the justice system among sexual abuse, rape, and physical abuse victims. Although seeking the justice system is the only viable measure, they end up disappointed and even more broken than when they first considered taking it. Justice system mostly subjects them to victimization, discrediting their character, and justifying their suffering. They also release their offenders with little or no punishment compared to the crime committed. To restore this trust, the justice system needs to fix mistrust by handling rape and sexual assault cases with the weight it deserves. The system should also ensure to follow the right trial procedure to ensure victim participation and satisfaction with trial transparency. Also, the judges, juries, prosecutors, and defense lawyers should drop attrition to a fair trial, and justice is served. The system should avoid centering on the victim’s secondary victimization and defending the offender to ensure that offenders receive the punishment they deserve based on the severity of the crime.

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