Elevate Difference

The Second Trial

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a scourge that affects families in every country and at every social class. Between twenty-five and fifty percent of women worldwide will be a victim of IPV at some point in thier lives, and forty to seventy percent of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner. These statistics are shocking, but what is too often left out of the discussion about IPV is the way violence can affect so many lives. When those in pop culture or the media explore themes relating to IPV, the conversation is limited to finding safety for the survivor, usually a woman, and to utilizing the traditional legal system to prosecute and punish the offender, usually a man. In The Second Trial, Rosemarie Boll moves beyond the dichotomy of perpetrator vs. victim and focuses on the too often invisible children who are harmed by IPV. Through the experiences of an adolescent boy, the book tells the story of a Canadian family coming to grips with extreme violence.

Boll introduces us to Danny, a thirteen-year-old boy who witnesses a family court hearing after his father seriously and continually abused his mother. The book tracks the boy through the court proceedings and then through life in a protection program designed to prevent his father from causing further serious harm to his mother. Viewing complicated legal issues around IPV through the eyes of a child highlights the disconnect between the formality of the legal system and the complex, sometimes contradictory emotions involved in family violence. Outsiders are used to seeing an evil offender and an innocent victim. But what does a child do when this “evil offender” is also a father? The Second Trial addresses these complicated questions of family and safety within an abusive household. Boll captures how a child can love and idolize a parent, even an abusive one.

By delving into tricky questions that surround IPV, Boll raises questions about how clunky traditional legal systems deal with complex issues in family law. She shines a light on non-court based innovations to keep families safe and introduces readers to New Identities for Victims of Abuse (NIVA), which was started by the Alberta government in 1997 to provide additional protection to victims of family violence. IPV is a serious and complicated problem that demands creative solutions. The confines of the courtroom should not be the limits of our solutions to IPV.

The Second Trial provides readers a glimpse into a child’s relationship with family violence, revealing an often forgotten voice in narratives about the subject. By contrasting traditional court-based solutions with the NIVA program, Boll makes us question the bounds of the traditional legal system. She leads readers to demand alternative avenues to justice and creative routes to safety for victims.

Written by: Andrea Gittleman, August 2nd 2010

Looks to be an important book as an advocate and voice for kids. Domestic, intimate partner, or whatever kind of family violence has many victims the most severely harmed are innocent children. In most cases, they struggle to understand why two people they love fight and physically harm another. More confused than the children seem to be the family court systems.