When and How: Admitting Expert Testimony on Victim Behavior in Sexual Assault Cases in Pennsylvania

On June 29, 2012, Pennsylvania shed its distinction of being the only state in which expert testimony to explain victim behavior in sexual assault cases was inadmissible by enacting Section 5920 of the Judicial Code, “Expert testimony in certain criminal proceedings.” The law, which became effective on August 28, 2012, is a critical tool for prosecutors seeking to provide a context for understanding sexual assault and sexual assault victims, as well as to counter entrenched myths and misperceptions about sexual assault and sexual assault victims. This article explains the prevalence of sexual violence myths among the public, how expert testimony on sexual assault victims’ behavior can help dispel these myths, and strategies for introducing such testimony at trial.AEquitas_When-and-How-Admitting-Expert-Testimony-on-Victim-Behavior-in-PA-Issue-18_5-2013