In order to understand who the real victim rights advocates are it is important to understand that the most important right for victims should be not to become victims in the first place. The fact that they did become victims leads to the second best way of addressing the situation which would be to avoid further victimization of both them and other potential victims. Once you consider this then it may be clear that the real victim rights advocates are the ones that do the best job trying to figure out what causes crime and how to prevent it in the first place. This involves careful unbiased research into criminal behavior. Several researchers have done this and they have gone through peer review. Some of these researchers include James Garbarino, Ellen deLara, Alice Miller, Joanne Scaglione, Dorothy Otnow Lewis and many more. They have concluded that most of the most violent people became violent after suffering from violent upbringing. This has been confirmed through corroborating sources and isn’t dependent solely on the testimony of felons trying to get a lighter sentence. In fact felons rarely admit to the abuse they suffered as a child unless urged to do so in some cases they still refuse to admit to being abused as children.
The problem with the system is that it focuses on either punishing the suspect or proving his innocence and getting him off. There is little effort to study what causes violence and even less to inform the public so that they can act on this. The real victim rights activists are the ones that do this.
Research has also shown that many of these felons also suffered from bullying and ridicule as a child. This may not seem important to some but to those that suffer from it for extended periods of time it makes a big difference and leads to a lot of anger. Once you understand this then it becomes clear that the real victim rights advocate are those that help develop programs that minimize or prevent the abuse and bullying that children endure when they grow up. James Garbarino, Alice Miller and Dorothy Otnow Lewis have all done research that clearly indicates that violent felons have routinely suffered from violent past and James Garbarino, Ellen deLara, and Joanne Scaglione have all written books about how to reform schools, minimize bullying and help parents understand better how to raise their children. They have also written about some social programs like head start and the home visiting program that helps social workers contact at risk parents and work with them to avoid abuse. In many cases if they begin early enough they manage to do this with a minimum amount of conflict that often comes up when addressing abuse. Parents become defensive if they aren’t approached in the most effective way possible, the home visiting program offers advice before children are born sot there is no need to imply any abuse.
Many of the high profile people that portray themselves as victim rights advocates don’t do these things. They often do more harm that good although in most cases I trust it isn’t intentional. One exception to this would be someone like Nancy Grace who is far more concerned about drama than about victim rights. People like this often use demagoguery to manipulate the emotions of the public. Nancy Grace routinely incites anger at the person suspected of the crime often even before they have nearly enough evidence to know for certain that they have the right person. Once a demagogue like this finds a villain they often try to make them seem as evil as possible often overlooking anything that might indicate either innocence or mitigating circumstances that could help explain the crime. Demagogues generally seek what they call justice which often seems like vengeance. What they don’t seem to understand or don’t care about is that many of these violent felons often went through abuse and they are often angry in some cases they also seek what they consider justice or vengeance. This doesn’t mean they act in a fair way quite the contrary they rarely do. What they seek is a sort of vigilantly justice. This isn’t what most of us would consider fair justice but when they are raised in a violent environment they often grow up with a distorted sense of justice. When they grew up no one stood up for their rights as victims so they learned to do it themselves anyway they can. In other cases they are just angry at everyone and don’t even understand it themselves. The problem is that most victim rights advocates only address the victims that they know about. Many children are routinely abused and there are no victim rights advocates trying to help them.
The real victim rights advocates are the ones who try to change the system so that they can prevent as much child abuse and bullying as possible. If anyone feels the need to distort the truth in order to protect the rights of victims they wind up doing more harm than good this means that decisions will be based on a false set of facts and this will inevitably lead to problems.
Demagogues are often too quick to tell victims what they want to hear and comfort them in the short run. This often leads to more damage in the long run. After a victim suffers from crime they are often angry just like the perpetrator was when they suffered from abuse as a child and they want what they consider justice. In most cases this is often what society tells them over and over again which is that they must be punished. Society doesn’t repeat that we should learn what causes these crimes nearly as often and most people overlook the importance of research into the subject. This also may lead to a rush to judgment in many cases. When there is a serious crime there is often a lot of pressure to solve the crime as quick as possible. This doesn’t mean that there is sufficient evidence to solve the crime though. Under these circumstances prosecutors and police often jump to conclusions too quickly. In many cases they are extremely reluctant to admit if they made a mistake. There are many cases where the courts have dug in their heals when defense lawyers have found overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the prosecutors. One of the justifications for this is that victims want closure and they don’t want to further traumatize them. If this is the case then it indicates that they are more concerned with punishing someone for the crime even if they don’t have the right guy. When this happens something that is often over looked is that the real criminal is still out there and may commit another crime.
The rush to judgment has at least two major potential drawbacks, they could punish the wrong person and they could pass up an opportunity to learn about the cause of the crime and how to prevent it. True justice should involve learning from what causes these crimes and how to prevent it and it should start much earlier. If there was more concern about justice in grade schools when it is much easier to deal with problems while they are still small problems then there will be much fewer problems in court. Also if there were more concern with social justice before it results in court action it would be much easier to deal with.
first posted on tripod 08/28/09
(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)