Florida Judge Bullies A Domestic Violence Survivor - A Guest Post By Stephanie March
Earlier this week I was minding my own business and cooking dinner when the evening news began. As usual, I kept it on because I like to be informed despite the array of terrible that we call the news. It was mostly background noise until a story began about a Judge in Florida that berated and bullied a victim of domestic violence before sending the re-victimized woman to jail for failure to testify. I froze in a combination of horror, anger, and sadness as the heartbreaking video footage played.
Video courtesy of New York Daily News
The victim had been allegedly choked and threatened with a knife by her husband. On July 22 when she was supposed to testify against her husband she decided not to show up in court. According to this article by The Daily Beast she told a court advocate that she was afraid, dealing with anxiety, and the last time her husband went to jail “he lost his job and couldn’t pay child support”.
Tearfully this battered woman told the Judge she had been struggling with severe anxiety since the attack and that her life was in shambles. She had moved in with her parents and was trying to care for her 1 year old child by herself. To which the female Judge Collins ruthlessly replied “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety” and then proceeded to sentence her to several days in jail. And this is when I saw nothing but red.
A Judge should be trained and educated enough to know that yelling at and berating a victim of violence is in itself traumatizing. The act itself should be a crime and the Judge should lose her job or at the very least be sentenced to empathy training. What Judge Collins did was nothing short of bullying and this bullying behavior must be prevented in the courtroom. As a survivor of violence myself, I felt bullied and victimized just watching the video footage. It gave me flashbacks to my own encounter with a yelling Judge.
I have read the online comments this week about how the Judge was probably frustrated after witnessing many victims of domestic violence over the years not testify against their abusers. First, that is an assumption. We don’t know what that Judge has seen and not seen. Second, I get that seeing abusers walk free after a victim doesn’t testify out of fear must be mind numbingly frustrating. However this does not in any way whatsoever give a Judge the right to act like an abuser herself and mock a victim that has turned to her for help.
This Judge doesn’t know what the woman is feeling or dealing with at home. To be sarcastic about the anxiety she is feeling and the very real fear of her alleged abuser is unacceptable. To be determined to cause more harm and suffering and compound a likely case of PTSD is nothing but evil.
The only lesson this Judge is teaching that woman and those out there watching is to not call for help or rely on the justice system. Judge Collins is teaching women that there will be hell to pay if they dare to be afraid of their abusers.
I am even more saddened by the fact that this Judge is a woman. I realize that either gender should behave appropriately when granted a position of power in the court but to see a woman berate another is downright sickening. She should just… know better.
One myth about the criminal justice system is that a woman is given preferential treatment by the courts in a domestic violence situation. Another is that a woman is fully protected by the courts if she testifies against her abuser. In fact, she is put in harm’s way by simply entering the courtroom. Afterwards the abuse often escalates because the abuser now sees her as a traitor and the reason he is in trouble. There are a lot of myths about the criminal justice field but being treated with decency and respect after being traumatized shouldn’t be one of them.