Most of us hope to engage in meaningful, loving, and supportive relationships with other individuals. For example, it’s the hope that the 42% of people who feel more romantic on vacation would be traveling with someone who they can count on and in any situation and with whom they have a healthy partnership. But the reality is that there are far too many Americans who justifiably feel unsafe with their romantic partners and family members.
Domestic violence, which is categorized as an assault that is alleged to have occurred between people who have some type of domestic relationship. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence is a likely a major factor in the lives of people you know. In fact, nearly one in five adult women and one in seven adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime — and that doesn’t even account for those who don’t feel empowered to come forward and share their stories.
What’s more, those who do have the strength to come forward and to hold their abusers accountable may often find that pursuing a court case proves difficult. In many situations, domestic violence cases (along with rape cases and other types of cases) may be dismissed due to lack of evidence. New Jersey state court data, for instance, shows that roughly 80% of all domestic violence cases were dismissed in 2014 for that reason. Documentation of evidence in these kinds of cases can be notoriously challenging, but Sheri Kurdakul decided she wanted to do something to change that.
Kardakul founded VictimsVoice, a website with an accompanying app, three years ago. The purpose of VictimsVoice is to provide a digital diary of sorts, allowing victims of domestic violence to document incidents in a way that’s safe and admissible in court. The service encrypts the data and permanently stores it on the app’s servers (rather than the user’s own device), and ensures that data meets the Daubert standard for court of law admissibility.
As Kardakul explained in an interview with NJTechWeekly.com, “Most victims never make it [to court] as cases because they are too traumatized to remember the details needed to withstand cross-examination. What did you have for lunch 10 days ago? What was the weather like? Can you remember without looking at your calendar? If you cannot recall this, then how is a victim supposed to remember something that happened when they are trying to stay safe, protect their kids and pets — months, even years in the past? That’s the problem we solve. We help them to ‘#Record2Remember,’ and give them a legal voice.”
The VictimsVoice app was just launched in June of this year, but it’s already catching on with law enforcement and attorneys. One Morris County, New Jersey police lieutenant, who is a survivor of domestic violence herself, is now working with VictimsVoice as the organization’s new law enforcement advisor. And according to Kardakul, at least one of the state’s top family law firms has joined VictimsVoice’s Partner Program. Since there are approximately 1,315,561 lawyers in the entire United States, this partnership could be merely one of many that could change how domestic violence cases are documented and prosecuted.
VictimsVoice does operate on an annual subscription basis, which may admittedly make the service somewhat inaccessible to many of the nation’s most vulnerable men and women in need. However, the $39.95 charge is actually a licensing fee that permits users to upload and store documentation (including photos). Subscriptions can even be given in the form of a gift card, and the website notes that those who cannot afford the licensing fee may be able to obtain one at no cost through their partners. The app also has the capability to provide a records receipt to the user’s lawyer or another individual, which would grant permission to that person to access records.
Although the VictimsVoice app won’t necessarily make pursuing domestic violence cases a walk in the park, digital tools like these can make it easier and safer for survivors to provide accurate documentation and to maintain control over their cases.