Let's talk about victim impact statements. My greatest joy in life is listening to my client read his/her victim impact statement on the day of sentencing in court which occurs at the end of a traumatic criminal proceeding, traumatic criminal investigation, and traumatic crime.
It's the culmination of years of legal work and suffering. It's a moment for my client to finally address their offender and tell him/her exactly what hell they put them through and what it looked like. In their own words, in their own voice. Surrounded by the loves ones who
travelled through hell with them.The VIS is the first and only time the survivor is truly in control of a criminal proceeding. (Unlike in a civil case where the case is brought by the victim-plaintiff, in a criminal case, the government brings the case and the victim is just a
witness). Under federal law, victims MUST be given the opportunity to deliver a VIS. It's a very emotional and suspenseful few min b/c often they've not confronted their offender in years. And in cases, where the abuse was entirely online, it's their first ever meeting. So
for years for the victim, the offender may have taken on this outsized almost mythologically nebulous evil personna. It's a very nervous and scary moment. But also physically (though not psychologically) safe because there's security and the offender is moments away from being
sentenced and dare not act out. And the room is full of the agents, prosecutors, victims, judge, who all know about the bad thing. There's also a ton of suspense b/c in federal cases, the judge determines sentencing based on guidelines.
and there's a range. Usually at sentencing, the prosecution and defense have already agreed on a range for the number of months and terms of sentencing but usually there are a few key points that get argued about at the sentencing hearing and the judge has discretion.
While we all have strong opinions about sentencing lengths and overincarceration, victims who are still scared of their offender -- especially in cases where the offense is related to a relentless many-decisioned course of stalking conduct or extortion or CSAM (i.e. an offense
that wasn't a heat in the moment offense, but an ongoing slow torture for the victim) -- are very very impacted by sentencing. Not usually because they feel a particular need to punish the offender or retribution, but because they are sure that as soon as the offender
is free, he or she will come back. They are sure that the impulse to continue the stalking is greater than anything our US criminal justice system can deter or rehabilitate.
At yesterday's sentencing, a sentencing for a crime w/ MANY victims, some as young as 14, the judge pissed me off. He was rifling through papers as victims read their impact statement over Skype. He didn't make eye contact with his camera. And he patronizingly told the
five victims (including one victim's father) that the VIS' was just for the purpose of their own emotional catharsis. That's just wrong. Yes, it's cathartic for victims. Well for some. But also traumatizing. Also brave. And if not received respectfully
by the court, a victim will leave feeling a million times worse and confused after.

More important, though is that the VIS is not just FOR victims. It's for the court, for the public. For the offenders.
Victims are forced to yet again be vulnerable to their offender. The VIS is just another sacrifice the victim is making in a years-long process of humiliation and sacrifice. They also have to listen to their offender, who also gets to speak and make apologies to the court.
The importance of the VIS is that the offender is FORCED to hear from the victim of their true pain and that these words will be branded into their head. And might reform him/her.
And that the judge will for the first time see living breathing RESULTS of the offender's crime and use that pain to inform their sentencing decision. Remember, especially in cases that plead out, the judge may have very little knowledge or emotional investment
in the case prior to the sentencing hearing. And the victims' presence and their first hand account makes it real for the judge. In many sentencing hearings, I've had judges get emotional from victims, express gratitude,
and beautifully incorporate the victims' sentiments when they address the offender and deliver the sentence at the end. It's a moment for the judge to reinforce and validate that pain of the victims and communicate that TO the offender. Again, crucial for deterrence.
But yesterday, the judge did none of it. No eye contact to the camera, rifling through papers, barely an expression of empathy. No recognition of how meaningful to the court it was that they came forward and beared their soul.
And when he did just sentence the guy to probation, because, in the judge's words "incarceration would impede forward progress [for the offender]" not a single word about the victims' safety or how they may be scared.
This was a failure by our court. Not because of the light sentence, but because the victims were treated like little cameo actors. I happily volunteer to talk to federal and state judges so that sentencing hearings can be useful to the public and deterrent for offenders
and not multiply the trauma to victims. The most beautiful literature I've ever read is VIS. And victims who do them must be honored and not dismissed. @normabuster @tkiramadden #FrancescaRossi

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More from @cagoldberglaw

22 Dec
I've been holding this in for four days and I can't anymore!!!

In a sexual assault case, opposing counsel sent my clients a draft complaint threatening to sue them for "abuse of process." The allegation is that they hired an attorney (me!) with a vendetta against rich assholes
And opposing counsel found old articles and tweets from 2017 and 2018 like one where I'm talking to a documentary maker about his film about a deceased guy who extorted guys he coerced into making tickle films and I'm talking about how I'd drooled over the idea of suing that dead
guy. Another places he finds a quote from a profile about a federal prosecutor where I talk about hunting down anonymous stalkers who f*ck with my clients. Yeah, I hunt them down TO REPORT THEM TO LAW ENFORCEMENT.
Read 7 tweets
12 Dec
Survivor speaks out after $2 million sexual abuse settlement against former AHS band teacher - thedailyworld.com/news/survivor-…
I'm so emotional to read about my former band teacher finally being held accountable. Everybody knew he was having a relationship with this student. He didn't hide it. They'd drive around in his red Mazda Miata convertible.
And everybody shamed her. I was in junior high at the time. On days he didn't feel like teaching, he'd have us watch musicals where the main character was named Maria, just like this student. Sound of Music, Westside Story. We all would laugh about that b/c we knew he was in
Read 4 tweets
10 Dec
I have some new trolls who love to tell me that I've built a business off victims' pain.

Do these people know how f*cking idiotic they sound? At our firm we STOP victims' pain.
Funny that my male friends who are personal injury lawyers never experience this trolling. The trolls fixate on us b/c we're a women led firm serving a type of person (victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence) who a-holes don't want to have using our
justice system. I'm not looking for pity about the trolls. They're just mosquitos. I AM looking for the normalizing of victims suing predators, tech companies, schools, and other institutions that can be held liable or vicariously liable for harms.
Read 5 tweets
10 Dec
I'm a victims rights lawyer. For every 1 case involving a rape tape on Pornhub, I have 50 involving rape and CSAM being disseminated on Insta and FB. Pornhub is far from perfect. But mainstream big tech is far worse and have a built-in mechanism for harassing victims directly.
So, yes, let's pressure Pornhub to clean up. And give victims the right to sue them. But don't blind yourself to the issue that the social media companies you use everyday are FAR worse even though they don't have "porn" in their title.
And in addition to fb and IG, You know how a lot of csam and child rape vids gets streamed? FB and Skype and more recently, Zoom. Stored and shared? Dropbox and Amazon servers. Solicited? Discord, Kik
Read 5 tweets
4 Dec
Good piece by @suehalpernVT in @NewYorker about 230.

I use some profanity to discuss @ grindrs response to Herrick's enormous efforts to get help. Over a thousand strangers came IN PERSON for sex. This was not a content-based suit 1/
newyorker.com/tech/annals-of… via @NewYorker
The issue was not the words in the profiles. It's that the profiles kept coming up, offender was using geolocation and chat to direct them to Grindr, and Grindr didn't have the technology or controls to stop that predictable problem. 2/
Lately Grindr has been responding to articles about Herrick and listing these magnificent efforts they were making to help. Well, it didn't ACTUALLY help. So who cares. But also, they didn't tell us that. And the strangers kept showing up. 3/
Read 13 tweets
15 Sep
Dir of International Freedom of Expression at @EFF is looking for help on how to admit that online harassment is real.

Victims, got any ideas?
Here’s an idea: an apology on the @EFF website to victims who you all treat as the sacrificial lambs of free speech
My crystal ball says @Eff will pay its penance by building out a hot lil dep't dedicated to tackling the novel new problem of online harassment and hate speech. Handily it will score lots of @WIRED profiles and internet hero awards and attract big tech money, diverting more
Read 10 tweets

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