Add my voice to the scores of those appalled by the treatment Neollee Mowatt's getting from the justice system. She's the young 19 year-old woman, pregnant, who has been incarcerated because she's refusing to testify against her boyfriend and assailant.
Let's talk on the micro level. Who's being served here? Certainly not Mowatt. The cops and the judge can talk all they want about trying to protect her, about doing something for her own good, but in forcing her to testify, they're making her more, not less, vulnerable.
The statistics are clear. In an abusive relationship? Get pregnant and the abuse will intensify. Try to leave and the abuse only gets worse. Leave and you could die.
I'm not suggesting that women shouldn't testify against their abusers. If they have sufficient support systems, a place to live and a tremendous amount of courage, following through with testimony is a good thing to do.
But Noalee Mowatt, a young immigrant woman, has few financial resources, is very isolated and isn't in a situation that makes it easy for her to testify. She has reason to believe that if she testifies and helps convict her abuser, she could be danger when he's released from jail.
Like most assaulted women, she's in a is in a lose lose situation. Stay in the relationship and, yes, she's vulnerable. Stand up for yourself and leave– to who knows where? – and you're an a different sorry state.
And does anybody think that this woman would have received this treatment were she a 40 year-old, white career woman. I don't think so.
Wife assault is a complex issue and simplistic solutions don't work. Why would any institution try to fight violence against women by submitting a woman to yet more violence in the form of incarceration?
On the macro level, worse yet, this kind of action by the justice system is going to have a chilling effect on other women considering the idea of reporting abuse. If they believe they'll have to confront their abusers in court – and why should they if a police officer has been on the scene and can provide evidence? – then the report rate, trust me, is going to plummet.
This is a disaster.