CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Lynch on Anti-Racist DV Prosecution Systems

Mary A. Lynch (Albany Law School) has posted Building an Anti-Racist Prosecutorial System: Observations From Teaching a Domestic Violence Prosecution Clinic (Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 73, No. 5, 2021) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Particular attention must be paid to the perilous situations of victim-survivors of intimate crimes. When a survivor of color, physically abused or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner, lives in a community which has been long treated abusively and violently by law enforcement, she confronts a seemingly impossible dilemma. To free herself from violent, ongoing abuse, a survivor of color must entrust her life - literally - to the protection of a law enforcement and justice system that has repeatedly failed to earn that trust. Survivors of color must also worry that calling the police, or working with the criminal justice system to hold offenders accountable, may trigger overcharging or lengthy incarceration of a partner. In addition to risking retaliation by abusers or threats to report undocumented family members, survivors of color who engage with the criminal justice system also risk being mistakenly arrested by the police as aggressors.

Survivors of color often want the system to act and hold their abusers accountable without the survivors having to further target themselves or aggravate their life situations by testifying or continuing to participate in a prosecution. They worry about the danger to themselves and their children both from the abusive partner and from participating in the challenging labyrinths of criminal prosecution or enforcing violations of orders of protection. These primarily female or female-presenting survivors of color are entitled to access to criminal justice and to societal protection.

In examining the intersection of racism and misogyny as it plays out in criminal law, this article primarily focuses on the perspectives and desires of criminal victim-survivors regarding prosecution of intimate partners as documented in social science literature. Many female survivors of color want to, and currently need to, access the justice tools provided by criminal law. It also observes that anti-racism work includes standing against misogynistic or racist attacks on female District Attorneys of color.

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