In many criminal justice systems, crime victims are now notified when their attacker is about to released from jail and in some systems, rape victims can search sex offender databases to know how close their perpetrator is to them or if that person has failed to register.
Having this information is no guarantee of absolute safety, but victims of violent crimes should have the legal right to know when the status of their assailant is up for review or when it will definitely change. Many systems also allow the victim to communicate the harm done by this assailant so whoever is reviewing a change in status understands the crime in a very specific way.
Attorneys representing offenders are going to do their best to paint their clients as no-risk or low-risk at any hearing and if they can hand-pick character witnesses, these offenders may come across as people who simply made a mistake and who will surely obey every law from that moment forward.
As Holly Desimone found out, in Canada right now, victims of violent crimes aren't informed of their assailant's immigration hearings and do not know if non-citizens who have been released from prison are still legally in Canada or if they have been deported.
That is unacceptable.
Last October, I blogged about some of her problems with NIVA which is a victim witness protection program. She was in limbo with the program for so long it became intolerable. When I say limbo, I'm not talking about living a normal life under her own name while her application was pending. I'm talking about being hidden from not only anyone who would want to harm her, but from everyone outside the program who knew her, including family.
Because she doesn't know why her case was in limbo so long, and because she doesn't have the legal right to know the immigration status of her rapist, she really has no solid way of assessing all of her safety issues.
One of the things that rapists do is rob their victims of the ability to control what happens with their bodies. The systems in place to help victims should give victims/survivors as much information and control over their own lives as possible while respecting others legal rights.
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual violence sexual assault feminism