If you read this blog, you know I’m a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., where I specialize in sex crimes and domestic violence. Last week, Simon & Schuster published my debut novel, “Law of Attraction,” about a fictional D.C. prosecutor who specializes in (surprise!) sex crimes and domestic violence.
I tried to make “Law of Attraction” a fun, past-paced read … but I’m proud that it also tackles some tough issues involved in prosecuting the most intimate crimes. Realistically – unlike some episodes of SVU!
Historically, there has been a tendency to blame the victim in rape and domestic-violence cases.
America is slowly getting over the blame-the-victim attitude in rape cases. Nowadays, you don’t hear many folks saying, “She had it coming – just look what she was wearing!” People generally understand that “date rape” is rape, and a woman who goes back to a man’s apartment does not automatically consent to have sex with him.
Many artificial barriers to bringing rape prosecutions are also now gone. Not long ago, many states had rules barring rape prosecutions if the only witness was the victim (which prevented most prosecutions – rape isn’t a crime that happens in crowded restaurants). Only a few years ago, a man couldn’t be prosecuted for raping his own wife. It took women’s advocates years of tireless work to make this happen, but there has been a seismic shift in American attitudes toward rape
But this shift hasn’t happened in domestic violence cases. In cases where a woman is repeatedly beaten by her husband or boyfriend, people still ask the question: “Why didn’t she just leave him?” This is an important question – but it tends to cast the blame on the victim.
In “Law of Attraction,” I tried to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” My heroine is a beautiful young prosecutor named Anna Curtis, who suffered a violent childhood herself. She takes her job personally. And she’s devastated when a DV victim lies under oath to protect her abusive lover. The man goes free, the victim turns up dead, and Anna is heartsick and determined to bring the killer to justice. Standing in Anna’s way is her own boyfriend, a public defender representing the accused. As her personal and professional lives collide, she struggles to understand why she and so many women are attracted to men who hurt them.
Although the story covers some serious themes and weaves through the grittiest streets of D.C., there’s some good old-fashioned fun: a wine-soaked summer romance, inter-office flirtations among Washington’s Ivy-League lawyers, and of course plenty of mystery and courtroom drama.
I’m thrilled when I hear that folks are enjoying the novel. But, I’m also happy to think that, while enjoying the story, readers will also learn what it’s really like to prosecute the most intimate crimes in D.C. – and why some women don’t “just leave him.”
This essay was originally posted as an interview on Jungle Red Writers, to commemorate National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is this October. All the views expressed here are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.