Wednesday, November 9, 2016

thoughts from a court room

My Genius Sister, in Iowa, wasn't the only one in court today.

I went to court with a B.A.C.A. child here in Texas.

Five B.A.C.A. members (well...technically I'm only a "supporter" as I haven't been able to attend enough events to get my patch) went to be with a little girl so that she wouldn't have to be alone when she testified against her abuser.

We started out the morning in the DA's office. The little girl, Dizzy, had some family support. Her mother was there along with four paternal aunts. We were placed in a conference room. It wasn't exactly kid friendly. I had stuck a couple games in my giant purse though. That helped pass the time.

We had to wait all morning long because we didn't know when Dizzy might get called to testify. Just after noon we were told that the court was breaking for lunch. Everyone left. We had one hour to get some food and convene back in the conference room. We all went out to eat at a pizza buffet, came back, and waited some more.

Just before 2:00pm - after waiting since 8:30am - Dizzy was finally called for her testimony. We were escorted across the street from the DA's office to the criminal courthouse. We passed through security and blocked Dizzy all the way there. Once up to the actual courtroom, we literally formed a wall of bodies around Dizzy. You see, many members of the maternal side of Dizzy's family don't believe that she was assaulted. They, in turn, were in the hallway to support the man that hurt Dizzy. We shielded them from having any contact with Dizzy or even being able to see her.

I then watched a very brave 8 year old little girl speak her truth in a court of law. She had to say, out loud, all the horrible things that were done to her by her relative. I kept a straight face. Our role in the courtroom is to give the child(ren) someone familiar to look at. After all, they're alone. Their family has almost always been subpoenaed to testify so they can't be in the courtroom when the child is testifying. They have to face the DA that they know plus the defense attorney and the defendant.

And don't give that defense attorney any slack. They are there for their client only. The defense attorney today did his best to try and scare Dizzy and to try and confuse her. It was maddening!

Here's one of my take-aways from it all...
Please, please, please teach your kids about sex on an age appropriate level. Teach them the right names for all their body parts. Do this from birth. Girls have vaginas. Boys have penises. Teach them to not be ashamed of their bodies or the names of their body parts. When you get a new foster placement, assess how much they really know about this subject and start teaching right away. So many foster kids have been sexually abused. They were taken from their homes for other reasons though. This is a big deal and we have to teach kids the right ways to talk about their bodies.
Dizzy did great today. She was strong. She was brave. But the best she could muster was that her private parts are her chest, her middle part, and her back part. That was all she could say. And she was scared to death to say any of that. Believe me, the defense took advantage of her fear.

I'm not saying that using the right words would have changed any of this. The court experience is traumatic and any kid would be scared to have to tell a room of strangers when they've been abused. But it might have helped.

Say a prayer for Dizzy. It's 6:00pm and we don't know if Dizzy is going to have to testify again tomorrow or not. If she does, B.A.C.A. will be with her through it all. But Dizzy and her big brother, Sorcerer, need this case to be done. They need the relative that hurt Dizzy to be punished under the full extend of the law. Their family needs support and healing.

It's been a long day. The criminal justice system sucks.

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