Published in USA Today | April 19, 2018
Black crime victims too frequently slighted by justice system
By Tanya Coke
My understanding of crime and its survivors was transformed the day my sister was murdered.
Late one August evening, in 2013, a man that she had dated 20 years before strangled her and dumped her body in a wooded ravine not far from her Oakland home.
Until then, I hadn't thought very deeply about the emotional toll that crime takes on victims (or their family members) despite the years I had spent as a lawyer defending and advocating for men and women who had been accused of victimizing so many.
I saw crime survivors through a very narrow lens of retribution — they were out to make my clients' lives more difficult. In court, I felt twinges of pain and sadness as emotions flooded the other side of the room. But I was always apprehensive about interacting with victims directly.
I never thought of them as experiencing anything in common with my clients, until I became a crime survivor myself. And then I realized that everyone who sits in a courtroom — the accused, their victims and the family members who love them both — need the same thing: healing. And for black survivors of crime, the struggle to get that healing can be much more difficult.