An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Judge Lois Haight
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Hook: Good afternoon. Could you please, Lois, Judge Haight, tell us your name and spell it.
Haight: My name is Lois Haight Herrington but I go by the name of Haight as a Judge. Lois, L-O-I-S, Haight, H-A-I-G-H-T, Herrington, H-E-R-R-I-N-G-T-O-N.
Hook: Thank you. I'd like to start with the beginning of your involvement in the crime victims' movement. How, why you happened to become involved and what was the context?
Haight: I actually started in the crime victims' movement I think when I was a prosecutor in Oakland. I worked with a lot of crime victims. My husband moved back east with President Reagan and I followed six months later. I thought he was just going to go back for a short time and I was at a dinner party and got in an argument with somebody and was observed, I guess, and they called and asked me from the Department of Justice if I would be interested in being on the Victims' Task Force and after some discussion, they asked me if I would chair it and I thought "Wow, what an honor. I would love it." And so that's how I actually got involved. Although I'd been on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in our own county and then on our local coalition and worked a lot with crime victims. I'd never had any kind of large, you know, exposure to the whole United States.
Hook: Could you tell me a little bit about your involvement in the domestic violence activities in your own state?
Haight: Well, what we were looking at mostly was how the domestic violence victims were treated and when the police responded, what did they do and how much help did they give the victims because when the victims came to court, of course, as a prosecutor they're... a lot of them are reluctant to testify, had changed their mind, were fearful, fearful of intimidation or what would happen if they testified. So we were looking at programs and ways to handle them better to give them more confidence, to protect them and to protect their children so that they could testify if need be to save... for safety for themselves and for their children. That's what we were focused on in Oakland before I came to Washington. But I worked with all types of crime victims.
Hook: As a prosecutor?
Haight: Yes, as a prosecutor. Robbery victims and sexual assault victims as well and parents of murdered children, too.
Hook: Did you have protocols at that time in your career that were fairly victim sensitive within your agency?
Haight: No, no. Actually one of the things that made me really think how important this was, I remember sitting in my office as a prosecutor and there was a fellow prosecutor who was very good in court sitting next to my office and his office and I heard him say to a victim, and I happen to know that he was doing a rape case that day, I heard him say to the victim, "Spit it out, just spit it out like spinach, just spit it out." And I got up from my desk and walked around and I said, '"You know, that's just not going to work, you know. You just can't tell her that." And that kind of flashed on me when I came back to Washington, that there's so many things that we had not been sensitive to with victims of crime and it was a real... just a real treat and an honor to be able to work in that field that I had seen kind of firsthand but not being a victim myself.
Hook: Just carrying on in that context, describe the field of victims' rights and services 30 years ago or when you were first involved in the field or as a... as a prosecutor and the context of the era.
Haight: We had kind of a special office. We had a man named Harold Boscovich, who headed our office, who is still heading the office and is still incredible. I mean this man should be cloned for what he has done. He actually had an office that he got funded with the old LEAA funds for the District Attorney's Office to have a victims' unit and he actually helped to bring victims to court and help sit with them and had people sit with them. But it was very minor in comparison to what needed to be done. But it was something that I could look at and say you know, there... there are... there is... there are things that can be done for victims and they can be done better and they can be done with more help. But he really set the tone in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office for sensitivity to victims' issues. It just hadn't been... everybody hadn't been trained in it and they didn't realize it and they weren't sensitive.
Hook: Were you experiencing a lot of resistance to it among your colleagues?
Haight: No, not resistance, just kind of indifference. Well you can do it the way you want to do it. But I don't want to pretend like I was this great victim advocate going in there against the world because that's not true. I was just a small cog in a big wheel and trying to do my job. I just noticed some of these things as we were going along and I noticed that how ...terrifying they were to testify. I remember telling a story to one of the victims and I thought I have to tell them all. They're terrified to testify and I told them a story of when I'd been a prosecutor and I'd witnessed an offense and I was called to testify myself and I was in the middle of a trial when I was called out and I'd told the judge and I was so arrogant. "Oh, I have to go do my duty. I have to go testify," and I walked next door into a court and they got me up in the stand and they said, "What's your name?" and I went La... La... La... Lois Ha... Ha... Haight. (laugh)
And I thought I now know what these victims feel like and I was always able to relate that to the victim, you know, to say, you know, we all get nervous and it'll pass and even I who, you know, appears so confident. But it was and frankly it was a very good experience for me to have that. But there was just a lot of things that I saw but they weren't anything in the scale that I was able to see later as Chairman.
Hook: Um-hum. In your pioneering areas of victim assistance, what was the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues faced in affecting change?
Haight: Now are you talking about once I became Chairman of the Task Force on Victims of Crime?
Haight: What was the biggest challenge then?
Haight: Whew, what was the biggest challenge? I think probably the biggest challenge was having people take this seriously. That we were not talking about stories that were exaggerations or, you know, we were talking about really serious issues that were going on daily in people's lives and I think that was, and getting publicity for the victims' issues. They hadn't had much publicity. They had been working, you know, the Rape Crisis Center in San Francisco, some... there were about seven places throughout the United States that had some good little core of victims units working but they were getting the kind of publicity that needed to make national change and to make changes within their states. So I think trying to get the public attention to focus on how out of balance the criminal justice system was. How much the criminal justice system supported the defendants and the judges and the attorneys and ignored it... ignored and mistreated and neglected the victims of crime.
Hook: How did you concede the...
Haight: And blame them, blame them. That's what the biggest thing they did. Oh, yeah. I mean the blame was insidious and I, it was so insidious it was hard for people to recognize it. You know, the employer would blame the victim, the friends would blame the victim, "Why did you go out at night, why did you wear that red dress?" I've told the story oftentimes that one of the victims testified before us on the Task Force and said, "You know, blaming victims is like analyzing the cause of World War II and going well what was Pearl Harbor doing in the middle of the Pacific anyway." I mean, it was just that stupid but the blame was insidious. The victims felt it. They didn't want to come forward and be blamed. They weren't coming forward and reporting crime and, therefore, the criminals weren't being held accountable. So it was really a big issue.
Hook: The process of the Task Force how did you... how did you conceive of it in your Committee and how did you implement it in order to collect all of the information you collected across the nation?
Haight: I have to tell you, it was a real blessing. I have no idea. They gave me an office. They said, "You can have a staff. You can have a secretary and you can have an Executive Director and it's all yours and goodbye." And it was just a lot... a lot of good luck. I ran into people like John Stein and Marlene Young from NOVA, who were incredibly helpful. We ran into certain groups, certain law enforcement groups that were very helpful. We started to figure out how we wanted to do this. We realized that we needed to hear from victims of crime. So we went around the country and had hearings on victims of crime and that... that was how we got the, a lot of the information and the hearings weren't the only place we heard from. We had had breakfast with them. We'd have lunch with victims. We'd have dinners with victims when we were out on the road. We never stopped listening to their stories.
Hook: Could you describe a memorable hearing?
Haight: Well, one of the most memorable hearings we ever had was with-- when we were in the mid... mid-west and we heard Betty Jane Spencer, who I don't know if you're interviewing for this because she's such a valiant woman. And Betty Jane, who was in a farmhouse with her four sons and four hoodlums on a crime spree broke in and killed all four of her sons. They shot all four sons in the back of the head with shotguns and Betty Jane they shot also and in the carnage, she was left for dead. She survived. And Betty Jane testified at our Task Force. I mean you can imagine there was not... there was not a sound when she testified and she said, "You know, all of these were... all of these hoodlums were caught and they were apprehended and they're now in prison." But she said, "I'm the innocent victim. They are getting all the help they need, psychology. They're getting medical help. They're getting education. One was studying to be a lawyer. Their families... their family's on welfare. They're getting help." She had listed all the things they're getting, their food, their clothing. "I'm the innocent victim. I had four horrible funerals to go through and the staggering expenses. I didn't get one single cent." That's how out of balance our system had become and I think that was the real turning point for helping and certainly one of the stories I was able to tell the President and to get his support for the Victims of Crime Act.
We had several others but I don't know if you want to go into it now. We had one on... on continuances, which I thought, was very good. We had a young man from San Francisco called Elvis Regalia who was in a...owned a pharmacy and he was burglarized and robbed so many times at gunpoint and he always cooperated with the system and he finally said, "I had to sell my pharmacy. I could no longer afford to cooperate with the system and I'd go down and wait in the hallways and find out the case had been continued or the case had been plea-bargained and every time I came down I had to close my pharmacy anyway." Ironically he said, "I became the pharmacy at San Quentin... pharmacist at San Quentin Prison because I felt safer at San Quentin Prison" and by the way we introduced these people. You want to see some pictures. Kind of interesting. I have a picture of that. Well here's a picture of the Task Force being created by the President. Wait. Maybe I should hold it up like this.
Here's a picture of the Task Force being created by the President, which I think is kind of neat to see and the Rose Garden. Thank God I kept my notes. They told me I wouldn't have to speak and I thought, you know, maybe they're wrong and they did call me to speak. The President turned to me and I thought, "Oh, please." Then the next one is when we're giving our Task Force Report to the President. It's kind of interesting. Can you see them here? And then the next one I think is the first Rose Garden... Rose Garden picture and the reason I'm showing you this is that here's Elvis Regalia, who I was talking about. Here is Betty Jane Spencer, who I'm talking about and here are some other victims that we had. Here was the President, the Vice President and Attorney General Smith. But telling these stories and introducing these people to the President, I think, was very instrumental in getting the Victims of Crime Act that I think has helped start so much of this.
Hook: And now I just want to ask, Lois, that people really consider the little blue book sort of the Bible of the field and now... what do you think about that? I mean really as the foundation of the victim assistance field.
Haight: Well, you know, you're asking about the blue book, the... first of all you have to understand I think it was the first small book that came out and we kept getting these and people said, "Well here." I said, "Show me examples of reports" and, you know, task forces I guess were pretty common in Washington. I didn't know. I wasn't from Washington. But they had all these reports and they're big floppy things, you know, and I thought well you can't put that on a shelf. I want something that you can actually set up and it won't be laying down and it would be noticeable so people would get it and then we, the report itself was really gathered from listening to all the victims and their concerns and their concerns regarding the law enforcement and prosecutors and the judges and the needs they had for victim compensation. And so we sat down with our staff and with...of the members of the Task Force Report and went through the issues and then fine-tuned it. I do, you know, I can't take credit for writing that whole report but I'll tell you I edited every... everything because I was so terrified, it was going out under my name.
But the one thing I am proudest of is in the beginning of the report, here's a task force report, in the beginning of the report we did a description in the day, in the life of victims and I had to lock myself in my den for two weeks. My husband brought me meals, he took care of our children and I wrote that. And that, I think, helped set the framework for what we had... the horrors that we had heard. The abuses that we had heard. The, you know, and the blame we had heard and from there we wrote the report with the assistance of everybody and it was a real collaborative effort for those on the Task Force and the staff.
Hook: Would you say that, or could you identify tactics or strategies that you employed that were successful?
Haight: First of all...
Haight: Right. First of all getting the attention and... and getting a lot of media attention for this. This wasn't media attention for myself. I wasn't running for anything. It was media attention for the issues of victims and we had a lot of press conferences where victims themselves were highlighted. You know this is where John Walsh came. He testified at our Task Force in Washington, DC. To focus on victims of crime and the other thing was a lot of TV. I actually was on quite a few shows talking about victims of crime. Perhaps not so eloquently but getting the word out and talking about things that people needed to know and how out of balance our system was. And then when I became Assistant Attorney General, I actually took approximately three hundred and fifty trips around the United States talking to legislators and judiciary committees and, you know, governors and all trying to get them to get behind this and it was a real effort.
I mean it was a, and our Task Force members talked to their people. Ken Eikenberry, who was Attorney General of Washington, talked to his people. Pat Robertson, who was CBN, who had a big following, talked about the issues on his show, you know. The... there was a chief of police out of Saint Louis who talked about this issue to his law enforcement. He was also head of the International Associations of Chiefs of Police at the time. So there was a lot of attempt to get the information out as we gathered it, then to get the information out as to the needs.
Hook: Do you see that there were areas that you would consider a failure, things, goals that weren't able to be achieved?
Haight: Yes. I think one of the things that we did, I hate saying that "failure," ugh, but, you know, we were so idealistic. We thought that if we got this money out that everybody would get it. And the reason we really focused, in fact, when I had to brief the President, I had to brief him on the Victims of Crime Act and then I had to brief him on family violence separate, at different cabinet meetings. And we focused on the fact that there were so many little families doing this, small groups doing this, with no support, helping victims. That they were coming to court with victims. That they were doing these programs out of their garages or out of their guest bedrooms or out of their living rooms and just a little support to some of these groups would mean so much to... to the victims in their area. Well what we didn't realize was that when we put this out and there was money available, these huge glossy people came in with incredible applications with, you know, that kind of like the big store and the Mom and Pop Store. They kind of pushed aside and we weren't prepared for that and I think the Directors following had a lot of work to do to clear that up because we saw that right away as an issue, but it was very hard to undo what we'd set in motion with the pre-requisites and stuff to have these program.
I think that if we had somehow been more vigilant we would have been able to anticipate that, you know, all the District Attorneys would come in and want to gobble up all the money or all the law enforcement would want to come in and gobble up all the money and not these Mom and Pop people who were doing a lot of the grunt work and doing the real field work and the serious work were not getting the help they needed. So I think that was one of the things that we didn't anticipate well and I've always felt badly about it but I'm pleased to see that those Directors following did an awfully good job of cleaning that up and I think John Gillis, the current Director, is very sensitive to that issue and will keep vigilant.
Hook: What do you perceive is the one greatest accomplishment that has promoted victims' rights and needs?
Haight: I think if I was to say the greatest accomplishment personally for victims, it would be that their counseling is being paid for. I would really, I felt that victims had so many personal issues. They blame themselves. They felt violated. They felt isolated. They were blamed in the system. I mean there's so many things that are important and I don't want to denigrate those but the need, I think, for the victims specifically for compensation, to have therapy, to understand a little of the issues, to be able to talk about their fears, to be able to get past their victimization. And I do believe that getting counseling as a pre-requisite for the states to get funding was a very important concept. Some of these people have real hard times getting past without some kind of professional help. You know, they feel so vulnerable and so violated.
Hook: Was the professional help there for them at the time or was that also something that had to develop?
Haight: That had to be developed. I don't mean that there weren't therapists and counselors but I don't think they were as trained in that arena and I don't think they were even thought about the issue of victims of crime and they certainly hadn't done it in the states in terms of providing help for victims of crime. There's other... .there's a couple other issues that I think are very important. I think it was very important to have the judges know the consequences of the defendant's actions before they passed sentence. Not every crime is alike. Every crime has something different to it. In one of the cases we had with, in Washington, DC with Elizabeth Montgomery, one of our victims who also met the President, was the, she had been mugged and thrown to the ground and the case had been plea-bargained, nobody bothered to ask her what had happened to her. The case was, I think the judge gave the defendant six months or something, probation and a $300 fine. Well nobody found out that actually when she'd been mugged, she'd been thrown to her ground... thrown to the ground and her hip had been smashed. She was absolutely incapable of walking without a walker. She had to sell the home she lived in all her life because it had stairs and she could no longer maneuver those and her medical expenses were staggering. That's just not justice. So the consequences of the crime must be known to the judge before sentencing and the victim must have a right to present that to the judge so that it can be a fair and balance sentence for everybody. I think that was another very, very important part of the Task Force and what we learned and what we pushed.
Hook: You indicated there might be one more.
Haight: Well there's so many. I think, where do we start, you know. I brought one of these booklets called Four Years Later and... and some of the issues in it, we looked at where we were four years before and we looked at it four years later and a couple of the issues struck me and I just, because I think they are so important. Number one in 1982 only eight states even had a victim impact sentencing... a impact statement allowed. Not that they were read but even allowed. As of July 1985, 39 states had only three states even allowed the victim to speak at sentencing. Now all states do. Very few states, one, only allowed the victim to have input at any of the key decisions of plea-bargaining. Now a majority of the states do. Another issue I thought was so important were the victim to be able to testify at parole hearings. You know, we found out that most parole hearings were held, the basis for the information from the Parole Board was the defendant's statement about what happened. They had no idea what had happened to the victim. So the victims being able to testify at parole hearings, there was zero allowed that in 1982. Now I think every state allows for victim input at parole hearings. Some allow it personally. Some allow a written statement and they, almost all states now provide for victim notification that the person is going to be paroled, which is very important, because victims want to know that.
Another thing was assuring the prompt return of property. Vic... nobody had any policies for that. A victim's property was taken for evidence and nobody ever bothered to return it. And one that happens to me all the time in court, we have a list of a bunch of things here and, of course, victim compensation and such. But one that happens to me all the time is protecting the victim's name, I mean not name but address and phone number from the defendants. And, you know, routinely, and there was no protection at the time, in 1982, zero, routinely, the police report with the victim's name and address and phone number were given to the defendants. Now that has totally been eliminated but, you know, you still have to watch it. I was saying earlier that I still have the prosecutors in court going, "Where do you live, Mrs. Smith?" and I'm saying, "Whoa, wait, don't answer that question and if it's a burglary, he knows. (laughter) And if it's not, don't tell him." You know, I mean you still have to watch these things or they're going, "Where do you work?" I go, "Whoa, what's the relevance of that question," you know, to protect the victim from having to give unnecessary information because they're scared anyway and they don't... and they have a right to be. Some of these people are very intimidating and do... do, are vindictive.
So it's very important and I think that's another very important thing we did. I think every state now has protection for victims' and witnesses' addresses and phone numbers and the police reports are no longer given. They have to redact the address and the phone number before the police report's given and if they have a reason for knowing it for some reason, evidentiary reason for knowing it, then they have to come into court and express why and have a hearing on it, why their reason is so necessary, which shifts the burden tremendously. So I think that's another important consideration.
Hook: What would you say is needed today to continue the growth and the professionalism of our field? What do you think might be missing in terms of being professional?
Haight: Well I don't know, what's the word professional? Sometimes I think the word professional means bureaucrat and then I just kind of get all sorts of shivers and chills. I think John Gillis' statements that he made earlier today were important. Just keep listening to the victims -- what are their needs and are they being met? Because when we get into bureaucracies and we get into experts, we get people that think they know. They think they know these things are done because they're in law. Well there are a lot of laws that are not being followed that are observed in the breach and the victims are the ones that can tell us that. So I think the need to keep vigilant, to make sure that the laws are actually being observed can only be done really by listening very carefully to the victims and their experiences.
Hook: What advice then, and perhaps this is a continuation of what you just said, would you give to professionals and volunteers who've joined our field more recently? Say in the last decade.
Haight: Well, you know, I actually do help-- give a little speech every time, four years, -- no, four times a year to training victim advocates in California. I love doing it. The first advice I give them is go and meet your judges and tell them who you are, what your purposes is, why you're role... what your role is and why you're there. I guess I harken back to a time when I was a DA and I was representing a rape victim and the judge ordered me out of court and I was there for the sentencing and I said, "But, Your Honor, she has the most influence and most interest in what's going on," and he said, "You're trying to influence me." You bet your boots I was trying to influence him and I was ordered out of court.
So I want to make sure that the advocates know they must inform the court about who they are, what they're doing and what their needs are. You will hardly find courthouses with victim witness waiting rooms separate. That is a necessity. These kind of things have to be done. So the victim advocates, I would say first of all, get to know your courts, get to know your law enforcement people, find out what victim services are available so you can make those available and be there in court for your victims. Because it never fails, when there is not a victim advocate in court, you know, the judge cannot be a victim advocate, you know, you have to be very fair and balanced and you see people sidle over to a victim sitting in court, you see all sorts of things going on. So to be there in court with the victim when they're there and to give them all the advice and support because a lot of victims come to court and there's nobody there.
Hook: Do you suggest to the graduating advocates that they introduce themselves to the judges and the courts where they're presiding?
Hook: Do you cheer them on because some of them may feel quite intimidated about that?
Haight: Oh, I do. I not only cheer them on, I not only cheer them on I give them some ammunition. Because if these judges do not follow the victims' rights laws that are... that are in place in the states, they can be held to discipline. And I tell them in California that two of the first cases in judicial discipline were because of treatment of victims by the judges and the judges were publicly admonished. So I said if they're not cooperative one way because it's right and it's just, then try another way. That, you know, it's real important that you do because that's a canon of ethic and it's also the law and so I try and do both sides so that they have some ammunition if the judges treat their victims poorly or if they're rude to them. And sometimes judges have not had the training in victims that they need and, you know, there's nowhere in law school, hardly the victim is ever mentioned. Well they may talk about the victims of a oil spill in some other country but where the victim of crime, in my criminal law class, never mentioned the word victim of crime. It was always the criminal we focused on and that has not changed in most and I know that because I did one kind of a survey when I was Assistant Attorney General on that and I've done another survey since and I still cannot find victims being taught in law schools. (Change of Tape)
Hook: What about the fact that law schools don't teach lawyers about crime victims' rights?
Haight: I think it's outrageous. I mean it just shows how skewed the balance has become in our system when they don't realize the other party to the proceeding is the victim. They have an obligation to do so. I do not understand their reluctance but it is edemic... no, what do you call that word, endemic. It's endemic. I mean it's everywhere and judges go to law school and when they come out, they've never heard anything about victims of crime. So they have to either be educated separately or they have still some of the same old types of behavior and thought processes that blame victims and then ignored them and mistreated them. They don't realize it. So it's just very important that we teach it in law school, that attorneys are sensitive to it and that judges are sensitive to victims' issues and victim concerns. They have to understand that you can protect the Constitutional Rights of the defendant, absolutely, without ever abridging the Constitutional Rights of the defendant and still treat victims well.
Hook: How, what do you see is the best use of VOCA funds for victims?
Haight: First of all to make sure that what is in law is happening. That we are actually doing what the law says we should do and that if... first, I think there should be some studies on that issue and I'm not a real study person. I'm not a bureaucratic, let's research the world kind of person but I do think there should be some very realistic studies about these are the laws, is it happening. I think we need to do that and then I, and that maybe just for the Bureau of Justice Assistance or research the National Institute of Justice, but for the victim funds I think we should be supporting the programs that are supporting victims. I think we should be reimbursing them, sustaining them, helping them hang in there because if we don't, then we're going to be back right where were at the beginning where victims aren't reporting crime because they're treated so badly. You know, that was one of the arguments when I was arguing also to the Cabinet. To try to tell them if we treat victims poorly, if we don't treat them well, they will not cooperate with the criminal justice system and they will not report crime or if they do report it, they won't testify and then the criminal is free to prey on more and more victims. There is no accountability.
I think that same thing for the VOCA funding. We have to keep the programs going that are there. We have to create new ones. We have to make more programs to reach more victims because they're certainly not all being reached and there's not enough to go around. There's just not enough people in those programs to help all the victims that we see. I don't see all that many victim advocates in my court and I am just a stickler about it. But I think that it is a...still very important and the thing that tickles me a little bit is we created this and getting this fund was so hard. You have to understand, you know, this was a time that people were concerned and I mentioned earlier about the, everyone thought this was an entitlement and President Reagan, thank God, thought it wasn't and was able to identify that but when we put the cap at a $100 million, we thought wow, what a lot of money that is. They'll never reach it. (laugh) We thought we were doing something great, capping at a $100 million and, of course, capping it was the only way we could ever get it out, I mean get the legislation passed. And now, you know, years later, 20 years later, what's a $100 million in our economy today. So we were a little short sighted but quite blessed to get it at the time.
Hook: The Task Force also... it also gave birth to the idea of the Federal constitution amendment and the many, it's been a long process and we're coming again around to a time where it's become very important and there's a lot of energy behind it. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Haight: Well all of us felt... all of us were really in accord with this I think on the Task Force pretty much in the beginning, we all thought this was a real strong possibility. But let's give law enforcement, the courts, the prosecutors, let's, and the states, let's give them a chance to do it. We put out the programs that were needed. We funded a lot of things that needed to be needed. Nothing, and I'm not trying to say we funded all of them. We got the start going. Let's see if they can do it. A lot of them said they could do it, you know. I told you I went around, talked to all these legislators and talked to these governors and talked to people, I spoke to all the governors associations, everything. They can do it and, of course, everybody was kind of hesitant about an Amendment. That's a pretty significant event to make a Constitutional Amendment and that you don't want to add one if you don't need, because you don't want to just be amending the Constitution without having a real good basis. But the time has come, the time has come. We can't just do it. There has to be some rights with teeth in it and the only way I think we can do that is with a constitutional amendment now and I said this about five years ago. I finally came onboard. I was one of the ones that said I think we should wait. I think we should wait to see if this can be done without one. And It can't be done without one. As I said what's in law, is not in fact and we've got to put teeth into it, so that we can make these laws real.
Hook: What vision do you have for the future of this field?
Haight: I think we have to, well I have a vision of the field of helping more victims, which I think is important. I would like more attention to child victims. I don't think we focus enough on child victims. I think we've given it a lot of lip service but there's a tremendous amount of child victimization out there that has gone under eported and not responded to well. I think we should focus on child abuse and dependency courts too. These are victims and there's horrendous victimization that should be attended to and they're not attended to at all by the, until they get into criminal court, they're not attended to at all by our victim advocates. So I think this is an area. I think we're doing quite a bit with family violence in terms of abuse between a husband and wife or partners. I think we are really focusing on that and there's been a lot of focus on that but I would like to see more attention to child victims. I think we give a lot of lip service to our love of children but when you look to see what we do, it doesn't seem to be quite that good.
Hook: Is this, the response system or the... the court system not broad enough to include all the children's needs or where... where are the holes that are... seem to be not addressed?
Haight: One of the holes, when I got into the court I was in, I was told all the time about the counseling for the assailant, nothing for the child victim. The adult victim, yes, but not the child victim. I said, "Well what about counseling for the child victim?" and people would look at me like oh, you know, like they used to look at me for restitution like is that a basic tenet, a civil law, you know. They would... .they'd look at me and go, "Well they're only five or six." I'd go, "They've been really seriously sexually molested, abused, violence, they need counseling." So I think it's kind of everywhere. I just don't think that people are focusing on the child as a victim and their needs. You know when I do the Task Force, the horrible crimes that were happening to children, especially the molestation crimes, and the cavalier way we were treating those victims and the assailants had absolutely zero practically accountability. We heard that time and time again and I think that we... I think we just need a lot more work in that area to be sensitive. I mean these children are our future and we do know that violence does beget violence and we do know that children learn from what they see and if we want to change that script for them, we have got to get them help earlier.
Hook: Do you think that criminal justice professionals haven't been able to wrap themselves around the incredible harm being caused to children out of fear?
Haight: You know, children... no. No. Children don't talk about it.
Hook: Because they can't express themselves.
Haight: They can't express themselves. There are a few children lobbies but I've never seen anybody in the, I, you know, I hear about them in Washington but I sure never see them on the local scene. I hear about these children's lobbying here for these rights and children's lobby here for that. I don't see them on the local scene at all and I talk to judges from around the United States, I do the judicial training, you know, at the Juvenile Judicial College four times a year. They don't talk about any kind of information they're getting from any of these lobbies. I think it is the children don't have a strong enough voice. They're not, a lot of them are not able to speak or able to articulate and that they're forgotten. I don't think it's intentional. I don't think it's ill, you know, ill conceived. I just think that they are forgotten and that we have not focused on the harm it does to them and what it does to their adult life if it's not taken care of right away.
Hook: What's your greatest fear for the future?
Haight: Well, you know, I was very concerned to find out that our, we have a juvenile kind of a prison here called the California Youth Authority which is where we put the most serious offenders. We had a wonderful program there started by Sharon English who was just an incredible vic... victim advocate. She started this great program there. I just found out that it had been cancelled. When I read the reports from the California Youth Authority, I had read terrific strides people had made and the reason was, as they went through this victim empathy program. My biggest fear is that these programs that have been put into place that are terrific, will be deleted and my biggest fear is that funds will be taken because they think they're needed somewhere else and that we will start chipping away at the progress we've made, let alone being able to make more progress that we need.
Hook: Were the funds for the program diverted to something else?
Haight: You know, I haven't found that out yet. In fact, you know, I came into this interview madly asking people here because I was concerned about what I'd heard in the adult field as well. I assume they were because they were no longer there and that victim empathy program was one of the ways people can identify with what it feels like to be a victim and one of, the importance of that to stop future victimization I think is very important. I'd like to see that in all the prisons. I would like them all to have that. But let me tell you one other overriding concern I see, and this is an issue that I am absolutely emphatic about. We have got to stop the use of illegal drugs. Ninety percent of the cases in my court are caused by the assailants using either methamphetamine or cocaine, I see some heroin, they're all using marijuana. We have got to stop it because this is the basis of most of the violence and the reason. I don't... they may have other reasons they use them but under the influence they do horrible things to other people. If we did not have illegal drugs in our country, we would have one-eighth of the victimization that we see. People do things under the influence of illegal drugs that they wouldn't normally do. They lose conscience, they lose ability, they lose judgement and perceptions and they make innocent victims of us all and it has got to stop. We have got to get serious about illegal drug use and anybody that wants to legalize drugs, please come sit in my court one day, one week and listen to the victims' stories and listen to the defendants' histories.
Hook: Is there anything else that we haven't touched upon you feel is really important that you'd like to bring up?
Haight: I was thinking we were talking of some of the people that have been so wonderful in the field and I just want to make sure that they get the credit that they deserve. I think first of all Stanton Samenow who was on our Task Force has gone on to still get himself involved in caring and supportive and doing terrific counseling on victims and writing very eye opening and good books about the issue. I think as I mentioned before that Marlene Young and John Stein should be getting terrific kind of applause for their tenacity and hanging in there through the good times and the bad, not wavering. I think that Maryanne Largent who helped start the Coalition for Sexual Assault should get a lot of credit. I believe Donna Medley who helped head up the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and helped get funding to help victims of domestic violence get support and help, I think she should get credit. I think Anne Seymour for the incredible work that she has done to carry on the victims' rights in her field should get credit.
I think there's so many people that have contributed to this field that don't get the credit and the recognition that they need. You know when you say what have I done? I've just built on what so many other people have done and I think we're very fortunate to have people that have stayed so long and cared so long and been there for the victims of crime.
|This project was supported by Grant Number 2002-VF-GX-0009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.|