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What I Do

September 28, 2009

Many of my devoted readers (ok, 1 person on Twitter) have asked me what I do for a living.  I work for a city prosecutor’s office with victims of domestic abuse crimes.  It is my job to contact victims and witnesses in cases set for trial.  I take statements, collect evidence, provide information about the trial process, and ensure they understand that they are under court order to appear.  On the date of trial I meet with the victims and witnesses and escort them through the trial process.  Most of our cases set for trial actually resolve with a plea negotiation and it is quite rare that the cases proceed to testimony and a judge or jury verdict.

When people ask me what it is I do for a living and I tell them, they generally respond with something along the lines of, “Oh, that must be so hard.”  My response is, “No, not really.”  Granted, dealing with the issue of domestic violence every day is not a laugh a minute; but in my case, it generally is not “hard.”

By the time I get involved the domestic incident may be months old and the women (the vast majority of the victims I work with are women) have moved past it.  I tell them that despite their requests to have the case dropped, my office has an obligation to prosecute crimes.  It is a delicate balance:  we are allegedly here to protect victims and the community, to enact justice when a crime has occurred.  Yet the vast majority of our victims do not want our “protection” and reject our notion of justice.

It is a common sentiment in our office that there is no perfect domestic violence case.  Our victims frequently recant their original statements to the police about the incident, do not show up for court, willingly have contact with the defendant despite a court order not to, subject their children to repeated scenes of violence, and are actively hostile to us.  Those that do support prosecution are inevitably disappointed by the outcome as they feel that the penalties are not harsh enough.

It is my job to understand the dynamics of domestic violence and assist in the prosecution of these crimes.  I am not an advocate for the victims:  there are others that fulfill that role.  I try my hardest to establish a connection with the women, escort them through the legal process, and offer them resources even if they are not quite yet ready to accept them.  It is also my job to tell the victims that I believe they are lying to us when they insist that is was really an unknown woman in the alley that gave them the black eye.  I appreciate that people make decisions that they feel are best for them in that moment.  I may be able to plant a seed that enables them to make different choices in the future.  I do not judge these women.  They love this person, they have children together, he is the provider and we watches the kids while she goes to work.  Who am I to tell her she needs to leave?

Every once in awhile my job is hard to do.  The children show up for court and I talk to them about what they have seen and it breaks my heart.  A young woman feels that it is normal to be slapped around by the person who professes to love her and it makes me sad that she sees relationships in this light.  A man threatens to kick the victim’s ass when they get home and I worry for her safety.  But early on in my career I learned that I had to keep a protective bubble around me in order to do my job well.  I am able to connect with people from all walks of life and meet them where they are right now, not where we think they should be.  I know that there are women I have helped and each day I show up for work I hope that this day will be another one of those days.  The majority of victims I have spoken to over the years would likely deny that our involvement made much of a positive difference in their lives.  But it is the handful I meet each year who thank me for my help that keeps me going without becoming hopeless and jaded.  It is my hope that all of us, especially children, can live in peaceful, safe, violence free homes.  I hope that I have contributed a tiny bit to that outcome.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2009 8:22 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 28, 2009 8:30 pm

      Thank you so very much for the feedback, Darryl. I had no idea how much I would come to appreciate the comments so I am grateful that you took the time to write one!

  2. September 28, 2009 8:32 pm

    Maaja – thank you so much for what you do. You will never know on this earth the difference you make in those lives. I know that the way you do what you do can make such a difference..not from the “legal” side of things maybe so much, but the human side. And that means a LOT.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 28, 2009 8:34 pm

      Thank you, Kim! Very well said. As you know this can be a thankless field to work in: it really does mean a lot to hear a thank you. And Kim, thank YOU for all you do as well.

  3. Jqsteen permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:40 pm

    Although you say your work is not “hard,” it’s definitely noble. You should be very proud. You are one of the silent heroes of society. That’s fantastic :)

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 28, 2009 8:49 pm

      Thank you so very much!

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