Punishing survivors?

Today The Intercept posted an important article:

While questions remain about the facts of the case, the abuse Salman endured is indisputable — and it highlights the widespread phenomenon of domestic abuse victims being prosecuted and incarcerated for acts committed by their abusers, or for crimes they were forced into because of the abuse. Both prosecutors and Orlando community members understandably want to seek justice for Pulse victims. But Salman’s family and advocates for defendants in situations like hers say that few are stopping to ask the question: Why is a domestic abuse victim being tried for crimes that her abuser committed?

Gail Smith, the director of the Women in Prison Project, a subdivision of the Correctional Association of New York, says that Salman is far from the only abuse victim she has seen prosecuted when the perpetrator of the crime has died or isn’t available. “The prosecution will find somebody to punish,” Smith told The Intercept. Abuse victims often end up being that “somebody.”

The piece is long, but very much worth reading.

It’s understandable that after a tremendous tragedy, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting, people want “justice.” I used quotation marks because all too many people confuse justice with punishment. Although difficult to admit, some tragedies might lack a (living) person who can be held responsible through legal means of punishment.

Perhaps Salman is guilty, but at the very least, it’s worth having a discussion about the culpability of abuse survivors in these extreme situations.