Domestic violence permeates every level of society, including our judicial system. While domestic violence perpetrators are often prosecuted within our judicial system, victims also appear in court and are prosecuted for unrelated charges. Victims of domestic violence can be forced– because of their unfortunate circumstances– to violate laws unrelated to domestic violence.
For example, a mother who is a victim of economic abuse may shoplift baby formula, knowing that asking for extra money from her partner would result in a bloodied lip and a black eye. This mother is caught, prosecuted, and summoned before a judge, where she is sentenced. Through the mother’s trial, there are clear signs of domestic violence. Although the court is not prosecuting a domestic violence charge, recognizing the signs of domestic violence can help victims find resources and avoid dangerous situations.
While domestic violence is often a personal and delicate issue, advocacy and legislation can help lessen the stigma for survivors and help bring about justice. The example stated above can be avoided by mandating domestic violence training for all judges in the state of Texas. Currently, Texas law allows judges who do not preside over domestic violence cases to be exempt from domestic violence training. Still, as we know, domestic violence presents itself uniquely for individual survivors.