Despite the volume of research and literature addressing sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member, individuals inside and outside of the criminal justice system continue to misperceive common dynamics, misunderstand victim behavior, and minimize offender dangerousness. Judges and juries unfamiliar with the dynamics of sexual assault may overlook offenders’ grooming tactics or misperceive common victim reactions to abuse as evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. Prosecutors handling these cases face unique challenges. This article contains ten strategies that will help prosecutors prepare and litigate cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member.
This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.
Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member
Human traffickers control their victims through force, fraud, and coercion. In the case of intimate partner sex trafficking, these methods of control are uniquely manipulative and difficult to identify. Understanding the historical and circumstantial factors that lead to vulnerabilities exploited by traffickers in these relationships allows law enforcement and prosecutors to more successfully address and minimize harm to victims while effectively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
This presentation describes how, in addition to violence and threats, traffickers exploit feelings of love and loyalty to maintain power over their victims and perpetrate sex trafficking and related crimes. The presenters discuss the importance of identifying victims of intimate partner human trafficking to ensure victim safety and provide access to services and support, while at the same time articulating offender conduct to ensure they are held accountable for their actions.
Trauma is a direct result of the abuse and exploitation that offenders inflict on victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. This acute trauma, often compounded with historical trauma, impacts survivor’s ability to fully participate in the criminal justice process. As a result, a collaborative, trauma-informed response that takes historical context into consideration is essential to ensuring survivor access to justice while improving community safety.
This presentation describes various forms of trauma that victims may experience throughout their lives and as a result of an offender’s victimization. Presenters define cultural humility as a key element of a successful trauma-informed response that improves our individual, collective, and systematic responses to survivors. Additionally, the presenters provide strategies to identify, document, and introduce evidence of trauma to improve case outcomes and community safety by holding offenders accountable.
At the conclusion of this training, participants will be better able to:
• Identify signs and symptoms of trauma, and implement trauma-informed practices
• Enhance victim safety, privacy, autonomy, and participation through collaboration with allied professionals
• Practice cultural humility while preparing cases to proceed, regardless of a victim’s ability to participate in the process
Interacting with the criminal legal system can be confusing, overwhelming and even retraumatizing for children and teens. However, through the Center for Court Innovation’s Child Witness Materials Development Project, a package of interactive, developmentally-informed educational materials has been created to facilitate effective and trauma-informed support for children involved in state, federal, and tribal court systems as victims and witnesses of crime.
In this webinar, participants learn about how children and teens experience the criminal legal system; best practices in educating, preparing, and supporting children through this experience as a practitioner; and how these new court support materials can be used to mitigate trauma by helping children to feel more informed, empowered, and less distressed when navigating this system.
AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson presented on human trafficking, child pornography, pretrial litigation, and witness intimidation along with Tabitha Gallerani (formerly of The Safe Center, Long Island) and Sgt. Grant Snyder (Minneapolis Police Department) on behalf of The Safe Center to an audience of government agency staff, human trafficking program staff, law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
Prosecutors should understand the legal avenues for keeping children safe throughout the course of a domestic violence case and be prepared to avail themselves of social science research to support their legal arguments. Prosecutors may also need to determine whether they should bring additional charges, argue to increase bail or sentences based on aggravators, and/or file forfeiture by wrongdoing motions to address any ongoing intimidation and harassment by a defendant. This article provides an overview of the legal authority for including children in no-contact orders or for filing additional charges based on threat to their safety. It also provides social science research to support legal arguments to extend no-contact orders to the offender’s children, along with other prosecution strategies to protect children who may be at risk.
The impact of sexual assault on a victim is devastating and the effects are long lasting. Victims of child sexual abuse may suffer physical injury, depression, self-destructive behavior, anxiety, feelings of isolation and stigma, shame, poor self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, a tendency toward re-victimization, substance abuse, and sexual maladjustment. When the perpetrator is a family member, victims often suffer the emotional scars of guilt, betrayal and fear as well. Judges and juries unfamiliar with the dynamics of sexual assault may overlook offenders’ grooming tactics or misperceive common victim reactions to abuse as evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. Prosecutors handling these cases face unique challenges. This article outlines ten strategies that will help prosecutors prepare and litigate cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member.
AEquitas met with a group of international visitors from Cabo Verde as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program for their program “Fighting Sexual Gender Based Violence and Sexual Violence Against Children.”