Nashville Domestic Violence Victims Call Criminal Justice Uncaring

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They are the “anecdotes,” the “unsubstantiated allegations,” the stories told in a brutally honest, 185-page report on domestic violence that Nashville withheld and, once it was revealed, sought to minimize, The Tennessean reports. To domestic violence victims, tales of an insensitive, intimidating and sometimes cold criminal justice system are all too real. On Feb. 14, after The Tennessean obtained a copy of the report, Director of Law Saul Solomon characterized its findings as “unsubstantiated observations in part and anecdotal findings of what the support community came up with.” It's a characterization that many domestic violence advocates take issue with. They say their experiences cannot be dismissed so easily.

“We have had several women go back to their abusers because they feel like they have no other choice,” said Missy Patton, who is studying to be a court advocate and has accompanied victims through the criminal justice system. “It's the attitude from the DAs, from the judges, from the police to make the victim feel like they must have been doing something wrong.” The city acknowledges that many problems cited in the report have persisted for years. Diane Lance, special counsel to Mayor Karl Dean and the architect of the study, said many problems were there in the 1990s, when Nashville was seen as being on the cutting edge of handling domestic violence. Asked why it's taken more than 20 years to fix those problems, she responded, “That's one of the wonderful things about doing the safety assessment. Cities are doing them all across the country, and they're ongoing processes. Cities will do one and then they shift to a new topic and do another one to try to keep a pulse on how victims perceive our system.”

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