Not Just a Credibility Contest: Sexual Violence Prosecutions That Go Beyond “Offender Said, Victim Said”

Sexual violence cases are often mistakenly reduced to a contest of credibility between the victim’s disclosure and the offender’s denial. Even though jurisdictions do not require corroboration of the victim’s testimony at trial, jurors may find it difficult to convict a defendant absent additional evidence. While crimes of sexual violence typically do not occur in front of other individuals, there are always witnesses and evidence to corroborate what happened before, during, and after the assault. By presenting the full scope of admissible evidence, prosecutors will increase the likelihood of success at trial while reducing the burden on victims.

This presentation addresses strategies and tactics to understand and explain victim disclosures through a trauma-informed lens; utilize victim behavior experts to educate fact-finders about the range of victim responses to sexual violence; and examine offender characteristics, motivations, and behaviors, as well as the impact of the offender’s actions on the victim. The presenter suggests strategies for overcoming common misconceptions at trial, including establishing a compelling trial theme, introducing evidence of the defendant’s predatory behavior, presenting corroborating evidence to support witness credibility, and recreating the reality of the crime for the jury.

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Maintain focus on the offender.
-Support victim and witness credibility with corroborating evidence.
-Develop and present expert testimony to explain victim behavior. -Recreate the reality of the crime at trial.