Mirandizing Family Justice
Jane K. Stoever, Mirandizing Family Justice, 39 Harvard J.L. & Gender 189 (2016).
Family Justice Centers, which co-locate governmental and community responses to domestic violence, are rapidly proliferating sites at which survivor autonomy is frequently in tension with state intervention. Abuse survivors often benefit from being able to access multiple services in one location, but the presence of mandatory reporters at the Centers, along with the Centers’ criminal justice locus, can create unanticipated criminal justice and governmental involvement, monitoring, and control, contrary to the help survivors expect to receive. Although the Centers are typically advertised as “confidential,” most of the service providers — including police, prosecutors, safety advocates, and medical personnel — are mandatory reporters of abuse who can initiate criminal or protective services cases. As the Family Justice Center model propagates, it is imperative that the Centers’ goals of empowering and supporting survivors be paramount. Abuse survivors should be counseled about the implications of providing information to the various governmental and community agents with whom they come into contact so that they understand all possible consequences of their statements and are able to make more informed choices. Survivors can essentially be “Mirandized” or provided with tailored information from Attorney Navigators to enhance their safety, autonomy, and available options. Such warnings could salvage the noble intentions of Family Justice Centers and protect survivors’ constitutional privacy rights while disarming the State from using survivors’ information in ways contrary to their wishes and well-being.
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