NVRDC applauds Taylor Swift for having the courage to stand up to her attacker. She spoke her truth and used available resources to bring light to something that unfortunately continues to affect people every day. However, we keep in mind the variety of experiences survivors encounter when they enter various legal systems in search of justice. Some survivors are further victimized by systems that prioritize the rights of the accused instead of striking a balance with the rights of survivors. Some survivors never get the chance to seek justice, because their experiences are not believed by friends, family, or professionals. Some survivors lack the privilege or means to report their assault and suffer in silence, with few opportunities for redress. Historical oppression, a force undeniably present in Washington, DC, often keeps victims from trusting that they can safely and successfully engage formal legal systems or processes or even access crucial medical services following a crime.
The court system believed Ms. Swift and her version of justice was served. Justice comes in many forms and we strive to offer solace and support for all survivors regardless of privilege or status. Most survivors in the District are without the the resources available to Ms. Swift to take civil litigation. With a poverty rate well above the national average, resources such as no-cost legal advocacy are imperative to a survivor's realization of justice. NVRDC is grateful for the funding opportunities that give us the capacity to provide free legal services for victims of crime in DC.
Even with options to obtain a Civil Protection Order or free crime victims’ rights representation, it should be recognized that limitations exist for all survivors when it comes to filing civil lawsuits against offenders. The ability to find competent and compassionate civil attorneys to take on this type of litigation is really challenging; add to that the unavailability of legal aid providers in some jurisdictions. Ms. Swift was able to countersue—an action so many survivors in similar circumstances are unable to pursue for a number of reasons.
A person’s socioeconomic status should not prevent them from seeking justice or cause them to face more victim-blaming. Those impacted by sexual violence deserve free legal support and pro bono options to defend or seek civil justice. We assure you: survivors often pay endlessly in terms of suffering, self-doubt, and shame. NVRDC will keep fighting for all crime survivors to have the support and resources they need to achieve justice.