I was 15-years-old when I was sexually assaulted. After the attack, I spent nearly six months isolated in my room – I barely talked to anyone. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Little did I know, that when I finally got the courage to share my story, I’d have to suffer that trauma time and time again after
being forced to recount my experience multiple times during pre-trial interviews.
The entire judicial process has taken an emotional toll on me. My mother, attorney and victim advocate have done their best to prepare me for pre-trial interviews, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the humiliation, intimidation and ridicule that I was put through during those countless interviews. I’ve faced my abuser’s attorneys without the comfort or support of my mother during the interviews.
I’ve been belittled by a room full of strangers as I recount the most horrifying experience of my life. Yet again, I was forced to feel as if I’d done something wrong, as though my body, my life and its integrity mean nothing to those questioning me during pre-trial interviews.
If our state leaders pass House Bill 143, victims like me won’t experience as much secondary trauma because it would place limits on the amount of interviews children have to give before going to trial. If passed, Senate Bill 36 would also allow child victims to testify by remote video instead of a courtroom full of strangers, including their offenders. I urge you to help victims by calling, emailing and tweeting your local legislators about this legislation that will limit pre-trial interviews and the dissemination of personal information of victims.
I can’t help but wonder how many children and young girls who have had the courage to speak out against their offender, decide not to move forward as witnesses because the system has worn them out before the judicial process even begins.
We deserve justice and this legislation may finally give victims the peace they need to testify against their abusers. I don’t want another 15-year-old girl to have to be retraumatized the way I continue to be every time I have to relive that night
Victims deserve the support and care from the criminal justice system, not harassment and ridicule by those sworn to seek justice. I am a victim, but I’m also a survivor. I survived the violent attack against me, and I survived the assault on my privacy and dignity inflicted by New Mexico’s criminal justice system. No legislator would want their child to have to endure what I did in pursuit of justice and I urge them to support these basic protections for child victims to make sure that what happened to me never happens to someone they love.
Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor was submitted by Brandale Mills Cox who is the Director of Communications for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office on behalf of SM.