What SVU Doesn't Show You About Domestic Violence

What SVU Doesn't Show You About Domestic Violence

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Kristin Hanson
September 15, 2015

Kahlida Lloyd '07 has spent much of her young legal career representing victims domestic violence and sexual assault. She dispels some myths about these important issues and offers practical advice for helping someone you may suspect of being a victim in this installment of the TWC Alumni Spotlight Series.



At about this time last year, domestic violence and sexual assault crimes grabbed headlines across the country. Former NFL star Ray Rice was caught on camera punching his then-fiancee in the face. A few weeks later, Rolling Stone magazine published its now-retracted expose about a gang rape on the University of Virginia campus. Since then, the spotlight on domestic violence and sexual assault has dimmed, but the crimes remain a major societal threat. Kahlida Lloyd '07 has dedicated much of her young law career to serving victims of these crimes in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. She shared her thoughts on these important issues and offered advice for helping those you suspect may be victims.


People seem to interchange the terms "domestic violence" and "sexual assault" a lot. Is that, technically, acceptable?


From a legal standpoint, domestic violence and sexual assault are different crimes. Domestic violence - battery, harrassment, etc. - requires some sort of relationship between the victim and the offender. Sexual assault is, literally, rape, or some other nonconsensual sexual contact. So you can have a domestic violence incident incident that isn't a sexual assault, a sexual assault incident that isn't domestic violence or an incident that fits both categories.


TV sets a lot of expectations for what these crimes look like. What do shows like "Law & Order: SVU" leave out that people should know about?


Victims have a lot of needs - emotional and legal, but also basic. For example many victims need safe housing before they'll agree to file a civil order of protection. They're more concerned about where their children are going to sleep than talking to a lawyer. The social work aspect is very important. Then, an attorney like me can help with the civil or criminal justice process.


What would be your recommendations for fellow TWC alumni who suspect a friend or family member is a victim? How can they best help?


Be vigilant. Most people who are victims of these crimes are ashamed of it. Few will outright say, "Hey, my boyfriend/girlfriend is hitting me!" At the same time, be patient. What we've learned over the history of domestic violence and sexual assault is that you have to let the victim or survivor decide how they want to address the problem. You can't force them to talk or seek help. You shouldn't criticize their choices. That's re-victimizing, and that's not the help they need. Don't blame the victim; support them. And when they're ready, steer them toward the resources they need.


About the organization: The Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., for which Lloyd recently worked, is a nonprofit organization that provides social services and legal support for victims of crime in the nation's capital. Visit www.nvrdc.org for more information.

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