Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Marsy’s Law Would Give Victims a Voice to Heal, Supporters Say
Sarah Busdon and Sara Westbrook, state director for Marsy’s Law for Idaho, believe Marsy’s Law will support stronger victims’ rights in Idaho.
Friday, January 25, 2019


Pamela Lassiter Cathey remained silent as her father hit her.

She remained silent as a best friend's father sexually abused her.

And she remained silent when her husband turned violent.

Then she found her voice. She left her abusive husband and went into academic research, looking for answers.

She founded A Frog in the Pot and the Institute for the Prevention of Relationship Violence to prevent child abuse, dating/domestic violence and elder abuse.

And she's helping to make sure victims' voices are heard through the legal process as she works on behalf of Marsy's Law, a grassroots effort to give Idaho victims a constitutional guarantee they can access their rights in court.

"Most important is reclaiming our voice," Lassiter told about two dozen people gathered at the Hailey Public Library Wednesday. "We all have a running narrative that we feel relates to our own story--until a crime happens. And our story in that moment is hijacked. All of a sudden, the narrative we had for our life is taken away by the perpetrator.

“Marsy's Law gives victims a voice. And finding our voice is how victims heal,” she said. "I now know that being victimized is something done to me beyond my control so I feel no shame, anymore.”

Cathey’s Institute for the prevention of Relationship Violence has designed narrative therapy protocols specific to the crimes as another tool for trauma therapists.

It starts with cognitive therapy, in which the victim tells what they’ve been through. The victim then writes out in longhand what happened and how the violence ended. The victim then finishes their essay with what's called the "heroic phase," telling how they have grown and become more compassionate because of what happened to them.

"As I wrote out mine, I felt feelings I wasn't allowed to feel the first time," said Cathey.”No matter where I speak, people line up and want to tell me their stories.  I understand the shame, the embarrassment and the fear—I understand where they’re coming from.”

The Institute has published some of the stories in an electronic book available online titled "Voices of Hope: Breaking the Silence of Relationship Violence." The book also describes research findings. Work is just beginning on an Idaho version.

Cathey recounted the story of one woman who concluded she wished she’d known how to access services as a young woman.

“I wish someone had told the 3-year-old me or the 11-year-old or even the 21-year-old -that I had the right to speak up about what was happening to me,” she added.

Victims who enter the criminal justice process often get left out of the loop. They can't participate in their own story, said Cathey.

Marsy's Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that will be introduced in the Idaho Legislature this year, would ensure victims have opportunity to be notified of opportunities to be heard at release, bail, plea, parole and sentencing proceedings.

It would give them the right to be notified of the escape or release of the accused, the right to full and timely restitution, the right to confer with the prosecution and the right to assert and seek enforcement of rights.

The amendment would need to win a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and House and then would be put before the people for a vote.

Idaho was at the forefront of victim's rights when it passed a Victims’ Rights Amendment  in 1994, said Todd Dvorak, a publicist for Marsy's Law.

But in the 22 years since other states have figured out ways to provide more protection for victims of crime and close loopholes that have been identified.

Eleven states have now approved Marsy's Law--six of them this past November.

"Nothing in Marsy's Law infringes on long-held, established rights of the accused. It just equalizes things for the victims," said Dvorak.

Marsy's Law was introduced to Idaho legislators the past couple of years. But legislators turned it down. Some said they preferred to go the statuary route. Some feared it might cost millions of dollars to implement.

Judges will always put Constitution over statutory laws, said Dvorak. And a study done by an Oregon firm found that Marsy’s Law would cost $400,000 at most to implement in Idaho. Likely, the real cost would be half that, he added, as counties recognize the need to offer more victims services to limit the impact.

"We're talking about doing something to benefit those who didn't ask to be in our justice system," said Cathey.

Sarah Busdon is among the Wood River Valley residents who would like to see Marsy's Law passed. Her daughter Lauren was sexually assaulted in 2014 and her assailant was given a 10-year sentence. He was released after two years and three months in prison, only to be re-incarcerated for a parole violation.

Busdon said the prosecutors involved in her family's case were as supportive as they knew how to be. But, still, there were times they weren't notified of developments in the case.

Lauren Busdon has come out on behalf of Marsy’s Law saying “my experience in the justice system taught me that it’s important for victims to have a voice during a dark time in their lives. Marsy’s Law for Idaho provides that voice and strength.”

"Fortunately, my daughter is a fighter, a survivor. She has found her voice," Sarah Busdon said. "She's given a TEDx talk. She's told her story on the House floor. She's advocating on behalf of other victims. And, while she started out in architecture, she's now majoring in journalism and public relations to give others a voice.”

Jeanne Cassell was among those in attendance, as her son, a former federal judge in Salt Lake City, is working on behalf of victims’ rights nationally. He also teaches a course on victim’s rights at the University of Utah.

Julie Lynn and Cindy Jessinger were also among those who listened to the presentation. They have advocated on behalf of Marsy's Law before.

"It's a good idea, and it's important to put the information out there so people know what it is," said Lynn.

"It's important that victims have rights and defendants have rights," added Jessinger.


Supporters will hold a Capitol Day for Marsy's Law on Feb. 6. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/events/616290782125556/ or visit www.victimsrightsid.com.


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