Black Is the New Orange

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

We’ve always been a little backward in this country concerning women behind bars, and the violent things done to many of them, mostly by men, that sometimes help put them there.

October 2014, by presidential proclamation, is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For many criminal defense lawyers, that’s every month. I’ve defended men who have beaten women, women who have beaten men, and men and women who have beaten no one. In many cases, prosecutors don’t know the difference, and don’t want to. They like to say, we treat everyone the same. But everyone is not the same. Everyone has his or her own story. Prosecutors, many of them, don’t want to hear these stories. They don’t have time for them. Their job isn’t to take the time, it’s to give the time. Jail time.

How did we get here?

This year, it’s because it’s the twentieth anniversary of a stunning act of the United States Congress — stunning in that it needed to be enacted at all — the Violence Against Women Act.

Before VAWA:

  • A man could say, she slept with half the football team; I almost made the squad, so why not me.
  • A woman would have to pay for her own rape exam, or forfeit the evidence.
  • She’d have to pay for service of a protection order against her rapist, or be forced to chat politely should he visit again.
  • Protection orders could be ignored.
  • Police might not even respond to crisis calls involving spouses, much less make an arrest.
  • It was considered less serious to rape your wife or date than to rape a stranger.
  • Stalking was a male pastime, especially at work, where the pickings were plentiful. Mad Men, anyone?

After VAWA:

  • More than 200,000 women are wearing the orange.
  • More than one million are on probation and parole.
  • Of these two groups of women, more than one million have been domestically and/or sexually abused.

Let’s get out there and celebrate.

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