CCR: For Survivors, Justice Comes in Many Forms

by JOLENE DUFEK, Program Manager; and DANA ROTH, Staff Attorney, Elder Rights Project of Legal Action of Wisconsin

Justice has multiple meanings. The most common understanding is what we see on TV: an arrest, a trial and a sentence handed down by a judge, with fines and jail time to follow. 

Unfortunately, there are many times when, due to issues with evidence or the limits of criminal law, there is no realistic opportunity for survivors to get justice in this way. But, with a broader understanding of the various forms of justice, we can still help individuals to not feel hopeless when the criminal legal system is not successful.

Another understanding of justice is the idea that everyone deserves to be treated fairly under the law and given remedies to their problems when they are harmed. These remedies are not punitive to the criminals, but they do empower survivors by creating safety and stability. Ensuring that all survivors have equitable access to these remedies is crucial to achieving justice.  

Civil justice takes many forms. Domestic-abuse survivors get some justice by obtaining safety and stability. This can mean access to free legal services to navigate legal separations or divorces, or obtaining restraining orders and public benefits. Community organizations such as Legal Action of Wisconsin and HELP of Door County help to connect people to these remedies.

An elderly scam victim may get some justice by recovering his or her financial stability and independence, even if the abuser used an alias and cannot be found by law enforcement. Advocates might help these survivors by helping them freeze their credit, make consumer complaints, locate financial support and address legal concerns such as debt-collection lawsuits and bankruptcy.  

Ensuring access to these remedies is a form of justice because it offers a remedy to the harm and provides empowerment and hope, even when criminal remedies are not present. There are currently several organizations in the Door County area that are working collaboratively to make services as fair and accessible as possible for all residents. 

A nonexhaustive list of these organizations includes Legal Action of Wisconsin, HELP of Door County, the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Door County, Prince of Peace Church, the Door County Department of Health and Human Services, the Door County Partnership for Children & Families, Do Good Door County and the Sexual Assault Center of Door County.

Please reach out to one of these agencies if you or someone you know has experienced an injustice or harm.

This article was submitted by Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Elder Rights Project. We are a member of the Door County Coordinated Community Response Team, a group of area professionals focused on improving the quality of life for area seniors.