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Court Accompaniment Program Underway

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Agenda Publications
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The courtroom is filled with strangers. About 15 feet from the witness stand sits the man who sexually assaulted you three months ago. He looks coldly at you and murmure "bitch" under his breath. After you are interrogated by the prosecutor and forced to describe eveiy minor detail of the brutal act, the defense attomey asks about your previous sexual relations with the man who raped you. The prosecutor objects, but the judge allows the question to be asked. You feel alone, alienated, and betrayed. You wonder just who is on trial. The motivation behind sexual assault is to overpower, humiliate, and degrade the victim. However, the feelings of zation many women experienee are not limitted to the actual assaulL lnsensitive questioning by the pólice, callous remarks by acquaintances and the trial can exacérbate these feelings; some women fmd their encounter with the criminal justice system as traumatic as the assault itself. Courtroom support is essential in the prevention of this further trauma to sexual assault survivors. Across the nation assault crisis centers have developed counselling and court accompaniment programs to assist women in their recovery from the trauma associated with sexual assault and in their interactions with the often insensitive criminal justice system. Li Ann Arbor, a volunteer Court Accompaniment Program is being devcloped by three women's advocacy agencies: the Women's Crisis Center, the Assault Crisis Center, and the University of Michigan's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. The program's function will be to oriënt sexual assault survivors to the court process and accompany them to court during hearings and trials. The program will be staffed by volunteers from the community. Currently, counselors from the Assault Crisis Center accompany their clients to trial. The use of volunteers will enable therapists to better serve the counseling needs of their clients. CAP is currently recruiting volunteers willing to accompany sexual assault survivors to court. There will be an information meeting 4 May and a volunteer orientation meeting 19 May (see CALENDAR).


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