By Steven Vickman, Executive Director of HELP of Door County
While a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Marsy Nicholas was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Shortly after her murder, her brother and mother walked into a grocery store after visiting Marsy's grave and were confronted by her accused murderer. They had no idea he'd been released on bail. The pain experienced by Marsy's family is typical of the pain experienced by many domestic violence victims and their families.
At HELP of Door County, our advocates often see that survivors of domestic abuse feel powerless. Victims feel that they do not have a strong enough voice in the court process. After being brutally attacked, too many victims find that those who kept them in a cycle of violence have a stronger voice and a host of clearly understood rights that they themselves do not have. In many cases, victims have rights that end up being trumped by the rights of the accused, because the victim's right either is not in the Constitution or is not as strongly worded as it could be.
There is a bipartisan proposal in the Wisconsin State Legislature which addresses victim's rights. Marsy's Law for Wisconsin is about giving victims equal constitutional standing to those of the accused and convicted criminals. It enshrines in our State Constitution the rights of those oftentimes powerless victims - providing them with new tools in their journey out of domestic violence situations.
Wisconsin has a long and proud history of standing up for victims, but there is more to do. Marsy's Law for Wisconsin's would address the shortcomings of our current laws in two ways – by making some rights that are currently under state statute fully constitutional rights and by strengthening other rights that are already in the constitution. We are all familiar with the accused being read their Miranda rights – what about a victim's rights?
This legislation has the support of a large and growing bipartisan coalition of legislators, numerous victims' rights organizations, law enforcement groups, attorneys and others – including survivors of abuse in communities across Wisconsin who are supportive of this initiative.
At HELP of Door County, we simply believe that the victims we serve deserve to have rights equal to those of the accused – nothing more and nothing less. If passed in the next legislative session, Marsy's Law for Wisconsin would then come before the voters of Wisconsin for their approval. We hope that all residents of our state will join with us in support of Marsy's Law for Wisconsin so that no family in our state will have to suffer the same pain as the Nicholas family. Please join us: contact your local legislators and legislative candidates and ask them to take the Stand With Crime Victims Pledge and make a commitment to helping Marsy's Law cross the finish line in Wisconsin.
HELP of Door County, Inc.