Won’t testify on domestic violence? Jail her

In San Mateo, Calif., Katina Britt was nearly jailed a few days ago for her refusal to testify against the ex-boyfriend who allegedly battered her. (He was convicted anyway and the charges were dropped.) Under present California law, sexual assault victims cannot be jailed for refusing to testify against their attackers, but domestic violence victims can. Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the court order compelling Britt to testify was “for her own protection”. (Malaika Fraley, “Ultimatum in abuse case: Testify or go to jail”, San Mateo County Times, Dec. 10; Michelle Durand, “Assemblyman to back abuse testimony bill”, San Mateo Daily Journal, Dec. 20; more coverage via Google News). Wendy McElroy wonders: “How has the issue of DV drifted from its early roots of empowering ‘victims’ and encouraging their voices toward imprisoning them and coercing their testimony?” (“Don’t jail domestic violence victims”, Enter Stage Right, Dec. 19).

2 Comments

  • Victims of domestic violence should be treated the same as all other victims of crime. If there are no sanctions against other victims who refuse to testify, why should DV victims be subject to incarceration?

    This case may be akin to victims of gang violence who many times are afraid of retaliation if they testify. The batterer controls his victim, not only through physical violence, but terror and fear. Since most sentences for assault are ridiculously short (particularly if there is a plea bargain), abusers are going to get out in a short period of time. If their battered wives or girlfriends have testified against them, there is a real and substantial probability that they will “settle the score.” Who will protect the DV victim then?

  • Smith & Wesson. (but only if they live in a gun-friendly state)