The criminal justice system is a critical resource for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence. As experienced prosecutors recognize, the concept of justice must also consider the victim’s safety, experience, and perspective. In order to provide the nation’s prosecutors with the support, information, training, mentorship, and resources necessary to objectively evaluate and constantly refine the prosecution of violence against women, several former prosecutors, a forensic nurse, and two national technical assistance providers created AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.
Crimes of sexual violence continue to be misunderstood even though there has been significant research surrounding the dynamics of sexual assault and its impact on victims during the last three decades. Unfortunately, too many people still believe the outdated and disproved mythology that surrounds sexual violence. Rape myths shift the blame for the crime from the rapist to the victim. When a fact-finder in a sexual assault case accepts a rape myth as true, the prosecutor faces tremendous barriers to achieving justice for victims and holding offenders accountable for their crimes. This article is the first in a series that will explain strategies to educate juries about sexual violence facts and overcome common misconceptions. In addition to providing data-driven information about sexual assault based on research, journal articles, and authoritative publications, this article will suggests ideas to improve jury selection techniques.
Nearly two-thirds of all women killed by firearms are killed by an intimate partner. Firearms are the most frequently used weapons in intimate partner homicide, eclipsing all other weapons combined. This article discusses the fundamentals of prosecuting the possession of firearms by prohibited persons generally, while focusing on issues involved in prosecuting domestic violence related firearms charges specifically, from both a state and federal perspective. The authors also examine the impact of the most recent U.S. Supreme Court firearms decisions on prosecuting domestic violence firearms charges.
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.
A strong response to violence against sexually exploited women is critical to closing existing gaps and enhancing community safety and offender accountability. Collaboration among prosecutors and allied professionals with relevant expertise (e.g., organized crime, narcotics, and gangs) enhances the identification of victims and perpetrators and the effectiveness of the response to these crimes. This article outlines seven strategies to help prosecutors develop or refine their response to recognize and respond to the interconnected sexual and physical violence perpetrated against trafficking victims and individuals who experience violence as a result of their exploitation.
The challenges presented in the course of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases can be daunting. Among the most common and difficult of these obstacles is the inability or unwillingness of victims to participate in the process. This reluctance may be based upon a variety of factors, including the victims’ fear, shame, distrust of law enforcement, and a real — or perceived — lack of alternatives to trafficking as a way of life. Sometimes the unwillingness of victims to participate arises from their relationships with their traffickers, who may exploit love and intimate relationships to recruit their victims. These challenges are significant but not insurmountable. Prosecutors and allied professionals can employ strategies to enhance the willingness of victims to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers and to enhance the success of the trafficking prosecution even without their participation. When victims do not participate, however, preparing and litigating forfeiture by wrongdoing motions is critical to the successful prosecution of these cases. This article discusses several key investigative and prosecution strategies.
Sexual abuse in confinement has persistently presented tremendous challenges to investigators and prosecutors because of internal and external barriers to reporting, including the behaviors, actions, and decision-making power of first responders that may result in the failure to make an official report to law enforcement. Additional challenges include issues related to evidence collection and retention, identification of witnesses, and multi-level biases against inmates. This article examines the Prison Rape Elimination Act and national standards related to a victim-centered, offender-focused investigation and prosecution of a sexual abuse in confinement. The issue discusses detailed strategy for prosecuting these cases, including investigation, dealing with gang involvement, and trial testimony.
Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes are among the most sensitive and challenging cases to investigate and prosecute. They involve extremely personal information, which the prosecution needs and the defense may demand, and which victims are understandably reluctant to share. The purpose of this article is to help criminal justice professionals understand what kinds of information victims generally consider to be private and to facilitate their ability to explain—to victims and other professionals—what information is legally protected as private. This Strategies article is Part I of a two-part series addressing two types of legally protected information: confidentiality and privilege. Part I provides an overview of confidentiality to assist prosecutors in balancing offender accountability with the safety needs and expectations of victims during criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Part II of this series on protecting victim privacy in domestic abuse and sexual assault cases discusses common statutory or evidentiary privileges and the scenarios in which conflicts with these privileges may arise. The article also provides prosecutors with strategies to protect privileges when the privacy interests of victims may outweigh the obligation to disclose.