As am currently in attendance of Yale’s annual RebLaw conference, legality has been on my mind. In particular, I have been thinking about how different identities intersect with psychological disorders or trauma to dictate whether the individual is able or willing to participate in court.

For example, how do identities help determine whether someone is willing to file a lawsuit against a sexual assailant? Is a lawsuit always the best option or AN option for all individuals? A sex worker filing a law suit of this sort would surely suffer more trauma and humiliation than anything due to the way sex work is criminalized and stigmatized within this society. A black woman, being part of a demographic that is disproportionately criminalized and traumatized by police brutality, would have a markedly different perception of the limitations of the legal system in such a case, than a white, middle class woman.

In terms of mental health, these different experiences also have an impact and interrelationship with the psychological after effects of sexual violence. For example, a transgendered individual, whose body is politically and socially policed on a daily basis, would have a different psychological response to sexual violence than say a cis-man.  In turn, this level or type of psychological trauma would have an effect on their capacity of stand in front of a courtroom to gain justice.

The question is then, is the legal path for mental health justice (or any type of social justice) always the right way?