“Victim-Centered” Justice Is a Threat to Due Process
“Trauma-informed justice” has percolated in academia and activism for decades. It is now knocking on the door of local police departments to demand changes that could upend the basics of how people relate to law enforcement. The approach converts the police into social workers or therapists and erases the due process upon which traditional Western justice hinges. It also increases the odds of wrongful convictions.
Trauma-informed justice—sometimes called “victim-centered” justice—involves an interview methodology in which the police prioritize empathy for an accuser who is automatically considered to be a victim. Rooted in trauma-informed feminist therapy of the 1960s, the methodology is especially favored for allegations of sexual abuse, such as domestic violence, where the accusers who come forward are overwhelmingly female. The methodology was refined by Russell Strand, US Military Police School, who offered the forensic experiential trauma Interview (FETI) as a way to question presumed victims without making them relive an assault.
According to trauma-informed trainers, the police should conduct investigations according to three broad principles.
- The accuser is automatically assumed to be a victim even before any verification process occurs; the accused is automatically assumed to be guilty based on nothing more than an allegation. This dynamic reflects a core belief of the #MeToo movement: “Believe All Women.” The leading proponent of the trauma-informed approach is the End Violence against Women International (EVAWI) group, which argues that “believing” accusers “is the starting point for a fair and thorough investigation.” If EVAWI is taken literally, however, further investigation seems to be unnecessary. An accusation is proof of guilt and is grounds for conviction. Why investigate?
- Contradictions, memory gaps, and inconsistencies in an accuser’s testimony are symptoms of deep trauma and should not be seen as disprobative. A much-quoted guide to FETI states, “Trauma victims often omit, exaggerate, or make up information when trying to make sense of what happened to them or to fill gaps in memory.” The true flaw in the process is said to be the police department’s approach, which depends on what is called “peripheral information”—for example, a suspect’s description and the time or place of an alleged attack. Instead, the police should focus on eliciting nonlinear information from the accuser by establishing trust and interpreting her memories.
- Factors that cast doubt on the allegation, such as an accuser’s history of false allegations or drug use, are not to be considered. This creates an enormous problem if the case goes to trial, of course. The Arizona Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence again
Article from Mises Wire