LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Many victims of domestic violence will find themselves having to prove their innocence in a court of law, and often, it’s a victim’s first run-in with the law.
For that reason, many victims will also not know how to navigate the judicial system.
That is why counsel at Lexington’s The Nest wants to help victims, who are also defendants, realize what a fighting chance they have.
“Domestic violence is a very unique crime,” Attorney Aubrey Girouard said. “Because it’s a crime involving psychological manipulation and gaslighting. That’s why sometimes the victim is accused of being the aggressor.”
Girouard said aggressors know how to manipulate situations when law enforcement shows up.
“The aggressor is yelling and screaming and acting up and causing fear,” Girouard said. “They cause the victim to get upset and emotional, and then by the time the police arrive, the aggressor is now super calm, cool, and collected. They might have injuries on them because the victim was acting in self-defense.”
If a person is convicted of first-degree assault in Kentucky, it could lead to a “Class B” felony, which means jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
However, a victim can first plead ‘not guilty’ of the assault charges and take their case to trial.
Another form of manipulation the real aggressor can use is filing an emergency protective order against their victims to punish them.
“Every now and then, you will have an aggressor who has been through the system or has knowledge of the system,” Girouard said. “If you have been wrongly filed against, you can call The Nest or Greenhouse 17.”
Both The Nest and Greenhouse 17 are organizations with in-house advocacy groups and advocates play a huge role in helping victims, no matter what side of the charges they’re on.
“Advocates walks through all the safety procedures to keep them alive,” Girouard said. “They can sit through court, explain the court process to victims.”
Girouard adds that there are even advocates for immigrants who face extra challenges from language barriers to fear of deportation.
Girouard said The Kentucky Refugee Ministries Inc. is who immigrants should go to for help with their immigration status while going through a domestic process.
The Nest has been helping train Lexington’s law enforcement to better judge who the real aggressor and the real victim is.
However, there are Kentucky laws in place that force officers to make the best decision they can at the time.
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Girouard said if anyone feels like they’ve been wrongfully charged with assault, besides a lawyer, the first step a victim needs to take is to call a community advocate.
For a list of Lexington partners who can assist with advocacy, click here: Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition