Preparing for the Preliminary Hearing and Testifying…..

Preparing for the Preliminary Hearing and Testifying…..

The court process can be very difficult on the victim because it is the job of the abuser’s legal counsel to have the charges dismissed, and if that’s not possible, secure a not guilty verdict.  Therefore, the victim will often have to relive the abuse several times over by way of questioning from the assigned Deputy District Attorney (DDA), the police, and in the courtroom during the preliminary hearing, and again at the trial, if necessary.

In our case, we took our daughter to meet with the DDA prior to her first required court appearance, which was the preliminary hearing.  During this meeting, the DDA advised our daughter that the opposing counsel would ask her questions designed to confuse her and make her look like a liar; upset her and cause her to recant her story, and/or make it appear that abuse was consensual or solicited.  Our daughter was then posed with questions that might be asked by the opposing counsel using foul and vulgar language.  She was asked to by very specific in terms of describing the abuse.  She was admonished to use appropriate anatomical terminology and not nicknames for body parts.  She was also admonished to repeat anything that her abuser said to her verbatim (in other words, if he used profanity, then she was asked to repeat exactly what he said to her).  These sessions were intense for her to endure and for us as parents to witness, although we were asked to step out during a portion of each to ensure that our daughter could withstand the pressure and wasnt being coached via body language etc.

When it was time for our daughter to testify, we requested that the courtroom be closed.  This means that only officers of the court (judge & lawyers) and courtroom staff (clerks and bailiff) were allowed to remain in the court during her testimony.  My daughter was also allowed one adult advocate in the courtroom and I was allowed to sit in close proximity to her while she testified.  The reason for our request to close the courtroom was simple; we didn’t want her to have to relive the abuse in front of strangers and looky loos.  This was a very emotional time and we wanted to make it as comfortable as possible – if comfort was even achievable under the circumstances.

As expected, the abuser’s attorney took every opportunity to make our daughter out to be a liar.  She threw question and after question that was worded just slightly different from the preceding question in hopes that our daughter would slip up and change her answer.  In fact, our daughter subtly called her out using verbiage like “Well, as I stated before,” which indicated that the question had been asked and answered.  The opposing counsel also suggested that the abuse was more or less consensual sex and our daughter solicited the abuse.  Of course, this angered our daughter and before the opposing counsel knew it, our daughter steadied herself and began to respond to each question with such stealthily placed sarcasm that even the judge was caught smirking a time or two. Granted, while this is not advisable behavior, it did have the desired effect because the opposing counsel relented once she realized our daughter wasn’t going to back down or break under the pressure.

It is also important to mention that the preliminary hearing was the first time that our daughter had to come face to face with her abuser since the process began.  She was advised not to look in his direction so she wouldn’t become flustered or break down in tears.  However, our daughter found a sense of triumph in facing her abuser and recounting what he had done to her while she looked him square on.  It was chilling to watch because most people wouldn’t have the type of courage and fight she displayed that day.  If it is even appropriate to utter under the circumstances….we were proud of her that day.

Next week’s topic….The Plea Bargain

Category: For Dads, For Moms, For Survivors, Uncategorized |

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