Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Government Agency Revictimizing Battered Women

Revictimizing Battered Women

In her article "Battered Women Revictimized by Secret Government Protection Process to Change Their Identities," Margaret Akulia tells the story of Candace, a woman who "unwillingly enrolled" in a "secret government protection" program for battered women who faced possible death at the hands of their violent partners. These women were given new identities and anticipated more promising futures. Little did they know that they were leaving one abuser in order to embrace another.

Candace lived underground for a number of years through NIVA (NEW IDENTITIES FOR VICTIMS OF ABUSE) and has bravely offered to tell her story to spare other women from revictimization. She agrees NIVA or a similar program is essential for battered women whose lives are in danger, but she believes that the process needs to be revamped so that it is “adequately funded, properly administered and regularly audited for abuse and misuse.”

Candace stated that she was coerced into joining by a senior Federal Government program officer in charge of NIVA. "This happened despite my repeated assertions and protests to the Senior Federal Government Program Officer and some Barristers and Solicitors advising him about and/or handling the identity change that I did not want to enroll in NIVA." She and other women in comparable situations were very "vulnerable, isolated and beaten down emotionally and physically and still recovering from effects of abuse they experienced from partners when the Senior Federal Government Program Officer continued the cycle of abuse by manipulating, bullying, intimidating and cajoling them into enrolling in NIVA... He entered the women’s lives, gained their trust and then took total control of their lives, just like the abusers and bullies the women were fleeing," Candace told Margaret.

Instead of going into NIVA, Candace wanted to investigate prosecuting her abuser through the criminal justice system. Instead she was pressured to enroll in NIVA and to abandon legal action against her abuser. "If I had been allowed to take my abusive partner to court and exhaust all legal avenues first, I would not have had to resort to the extreme measure of getting new identities for myself and my daughter and been so severely injured as a result…The Senior Federal Government Program Officer made me believe that I did not have a choice but to enroll in NIVA and it was the only way I could protect my daughter. He instilled so much fear in me that I believed that I was in grave danger…and had no option but to change my identity and that of my daughter by enrolling in NIVA.

"When I tried to back off from the Senior Federal Government Program Officer, he became aggressive like my abusive partner…I did not meet conditions stipulated in the Change of Identity Procedure and should not have been pressured, manipulated, scared and intimidated by the Senior Federal Government Program Officer into resorting to the extreme measure of changing my identity and that of my daughter."

Margaret Akulia asked Candace what measures she wanted the government to take now in response to her being "unwillingly enrolled and bullied" into participating in NIVA. "I want accountability and our old identities back," Candace replied. Margaret wasn't sure if it was possible to regain an old identity for Candace and her 13-year-old daughter, who “have sustained severe damages and injuries as a result” of their forced participation in NIVA, while her abusive partner has never been charged or prosecuted.

To add insult to injury, Candace consulted a lawyer who told her that her current NIVA identity is not even legal! Moreover, she doesn’t have sole custody/no access, which is necessary for her to obtain a new identity. Consequently, it is possible legally that the abusive father could track Candace down and apply for custody of their child.

Candace has appealed to Members of Parliament, lawyers and police officers. She needs our help. Please visit Holly’s Site for Justice: http://www.fightforjustice.blogspot.com/ and e-mail Holly at hollyhawk30@gmail.com to offer assistance.

After so many years of torment, Candace deserves safety, her old identity, and assurance that she and only she will raise her daughter, not to mention accountability from the government workers and agencies that mistreated her. She should also be advised of her legal rights now if she were to take action against her abuser.

To read a longer version of Candace's story, please visit Margaret Akulia’s site at http://www.akulia.com/OtherStories.html.

1 comment:

HJD said...

Hi Sigrid,
Thank you for the help in telling Candace's Story. She cried, Margaret said the summary is excellent! Bless you for the help and take care
Sincerely Holly Desimone