Shining The Spotlight with Dr. Emily Bonistall Postel

Emily  featuring Emily Bonistall Postel | Kentucky State Director

Which component of Marsy’s Law for Kentucky stands out most to you and why?

When Kentucky voters would ask me “Why do we need this? Don’t we already have victims' rights?” I would explain that one of the rights provided under Marsy’s Law will ensure those crime victims in Kentucky have the right to be present. Throughout the campaign, voters were absolutely shocked to learn that we don’t currently have this right! One person said, “I feel like Law & Order has been lying to me all this time!” This is called the SVU-Effect and there’s actually a lot of research on this and the role it plays in juries’ decisions. But it became really clear to me that it also plays an enormous role for voters.

If it’s shocking to learn that we don’t have the right to be present, then it’s indicative that so many people don’t know what it’s actually like to be a victim in our criminal justice system. Our voter outreach and education efforts must combat the myths that exist about the system by elevating the voices and experiences of victims in our state. This is why we must listen to the voices of people who do know what it’s like – victims, their families, and the incredible advocates who support them throughout their path to healing and justice. And those voices are loud and clear in their support of Marsy’s Law!

In discussing the criminal justice system with victims and survivors, what have you found to be common themes/frustrations for those navigating the system and how do you believe Marsy’s Law will help with those frustrations in the future?

When someone experiences a crime, they experience a loss of control (over their body, their property, their safety, etc.) which is why trauma-informed practices help the victim re-establish a sense of control. But when the criminal justice system fails victims, it leaves them in the dark – it makes them feel even more out of control.

One KY victim wrote to us and said “for the past 15 months, I had to find the court date and time of when his proceeding was all on my own. Never got a phone call or text message from anybody in the courts or even from the victim’s advocate. I have never been so in the dark in my life. It’s like hell.

The rights protected under Marsy’s Law would not give victims control over the case or allow them to veto the prosecutor. But it would help them to feel less out of control by being informed and being heard. The elements of Marsy’s Law of information, validation, voice, and dignity are key to shaping a victim’s perception of control and, ultimately, their perception of justice. 

What encouragement would you like to give to victims and survivors?

In case you need this reminder, let me tell you: this was not your fault, you are worthy of love and respect, and you matter. You are stronger than you think, more capable than you feel, and braver than you know!