In November 2021, Just Access got in touch with Gewaltambulanz, a clinic for victims of violence at the Heidelberg University Hospital, which through the work of a specially trained team of experts, documents injuries that can be used in court and offers protection of traces on body and clothing. In pursuit of out mission to improve access to justice for all, we wanted to contribute to this important work of Gewaltambulanz.
Some of our members already had previous experience with designing, testing and producing leaflets for US victims of medical insurance fraud and predatory lenders.We have also worked extensively with refugees and trauma victims of all age groups, and have the international and German law skills to advise the victims who turn to Gewaltambulanz. However, due to out limited experience that is specific to victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence, prisoners, and traumatised children, the coordination with the Gewaltambulanz was key. We decided to designed a leaflet that will inform victims of violence of the basic legal remedies available to them after they’ve been harmed.
We came up with a law and behavioral economics project. It grew from a five-year project run by Harvard Law School about institutional corruption, which explored how cognitive biases become institutionalised, cause immense harm, and can be stopped. In the legal field of access to justice, which is our NGO’s mission, institutional corruption is most apparent when victims do not receive the information they need in a form they understand. When you are the victim of domestic or sexual violence or a street mugging, you’ll be traumatised and misunderstand half of the things the police are telling you. They cross informing you off their list. If you get an information package, and wish to initiate legal proceedings, again, you probably won’t understand every term, option, and legal consequences. Lab studies and real-life case studies have shown that what benefits victims of predatory lending or arbitrary insurance denial the most is a maximum two-page leaflet that is pellucid, legally accurate, and empowers victims to act. This is a new and growing field but it’s already clear that the best thing we can do for victims is to stop assuming that they’re always necessarily rational or at least able to attend law school before they identify the optimal legal strategy for their case.
Just Access has been developing a set of leaflets for the University of Heidelberg’s medical clinic for victims of violence. It’s printed on an A4 sheet to make production and handling easy. It’s folded to produce 4 pages. Pages 1 and 4, the outside, may look like this:
And pages 2 and 3 might look a bit like this:
Once we test its usability and incorporate every suggestion, we hope to eventually distribute the leaflet in hospital wards, police stations, prisons, refugee shelters and other NGOs, with group-specific adaptations and in multiple languages. We will also collect data from victims and carers as they use the leaflets, and publish a scientific study in a few years which, we hope, will allow us to refine and scale up the methodology, and make it freely available to other NGOs and State organs in every context in which victims need help.