Surviving the Legal System - By Caroline Taylor

Surviving the Legal System - By Caroline Taylor

Surviving the Legal System: a handbook for adult and child sexual abuse survivors and their supporters.

A 15-year old girl faces her estranged father in court. She reported him to the police after she had woken to find him attempting to have sex with her. This happened when she accompanied her father on an interstate trip after travelling to Victoria to see him. Although the case included DNA of the father's semen taken from her and the motel bed, the jury was never told of this. The father's lawyer was able to cross-examine the girl about the fact that she had made similar allegations against her brother. The jury was never told that her brother had pleaded guilty and was convicted. The father was acquitted.

Caroline Taylor has exposed the truth in articulating that the legal system should not be viewed as the justice system - these two concepts are poles apart in the reality. As they say - know thy enemy. For all survivors of sexual assault trying to find justice in our legal system - the law and the system of law is too often the enemy! Caroline has written a vital information tool for all those who are considering entering the legal process in search of justice.
- Hetty Johnston, Bravehearts Inc.

Many survivors of sexual assault, rape and child abuse who have gone through the legal process to find justice speak of their experiences as being equally 'abusive'. How do we allow the justice system to fail some of the most vulnerable members of our community?

Sexual assault, rape and child abuse cases are notoriously harrowing for the survivors, as their word is pitted against that of their assailants. For many, facing the legal world after their assault can be an equally traumatic experience. However, for those survivors who are courageous enough to step forward, seeking redress through the criminal justice system remains vital for their sense of closure after the assault.

Surviving the Legal System is a much-needed handbook that will prove invaluable to survivors of rape and sexual assault, their counsellors, friends and family members. It is also compelling reading for all members of our community who care about justice.

Written in a way that makes it clearly accessible to any reader, the book provides essential information for all survivors:
· advice on the rights of the survivor;
· where to go for help;
· reporting the crime to police;
· proceeding with the legal process;
· explanation of the different courts and their personnel and function;
· and most importantly, prepares survivors for the procedures, strategies and tactics that defence barristers often use in sexual offence trials.

For the first time, survivors can be proactive about their situation after the assault and take steps to be prepared for the police, the legal system, and most importantly, the courtroom. Based on extensive first-hand research, the book outlines why the current adversarial trial system is so harmful to truth and justice in sexual assault and child abuse cases, as lawyers, particularly Defence Barristers continue to use 'game plans' to frighten and intimidate survivors.

This book is written by someone who after suffering long-term abuse by her father, finally sought justice through two long and difficult trials in the County and Supreme Courts. Caroline is now actively involved in seeking change to our legal system through her research (she is currently Research Fellow at Ballarat University) and ongoing work with survivors, so that a better justice system than the one she fought will serve them.

About the Author: Caroline Taylor has had a remarkable journey, from being a long-term abuse survivor to an academic doing groundbreaking research into the impact of the legal system on survivor of sexual assault and child abuse.

She endured many years of child and sexual abuse at the hands of her biological father, which began when she was six. The abuse was allowed to continue with the full knowledge of the rest of her family and officials. After gaining access to her father's medical records years later, Caroline discovered that the abuse was noted, but no one did anything.

Each time Caroline told her mother about the sexual abuse, her mother would rage against her by hitting her and telling Caroline she had ruined her life by being born and that she was 'dirty'. Her father would then abuse Caroline further for telling someone and Caroline soon learned to greatly fear any further disclosure.

She tried to escape several times and on one occasion was thwarted by her father threatening her with a loaded firearm. When a relative came to live with her family, she took this opportunity to flee. Her family disowned her and her father took revenge by killing all the animals Caroline had cared for. Even after the escape, for a time, her family continued to terrorise her with physical and verbal threats, which led to her changing her name.

She reported the abuse to the police in December 1991 and began a long, 6-year legal and emotional battle to bring her father to account through the criminal justice system. She was not prepared for this process, which traumatised her on another level - what she calls "legal abuse".

A committal hearing is held in April 1993 and sends the case to trial. Conviction and sentencing takes place in August 1993 at County Court. There was an appeal in 1994 and retrial in 1995 and further two appeals in 1995 and 1997 - both rejected. In all, Caroline spent around 30 days in the witness box. Her experience of the legal system made her realise that there was something very wrong in the way the judiciary dealt with child abuse and sexual assault cases and has been campaigning for change ever since.

She started university in 1992 after only partially completing year 10 and was awarded first class honours and a full scholarship to do a PhD in 1996 investigating the relationship between law and abuse. The thesis was completed in 2000 and won the Jean Martin Award, a national award for the best PhD thesis from an Australian University. Her research and work has also been widely published in international journals. She is frequently invited to speak at conferences nationally and around the world.

She is currently the Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Ballarat University and lives with her partner, Daniel and a menagerie of horses, birds, dogs and cats.

Book Price: $27.95
ISBN: 0958073775
Available through: www.johnwiley.com.au




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