A Broader Sense of Justice: Respecting Victim Autonomy While Pursuing Offender Accountability

Prosecutors seeking justice in crimes of sexual and domestic violence must often balance holding perpetrators accountable and valuing victim autonomy. Many victims are unable to participate in the prosecution for reasons including fear, ongoing trauma, love for or loyalty to the perpetrator, intimidation, financial harm, self-blame, or embarrassment. Reliving the traumatization of their sexual assault or domestic abuse while feeling like they are in the spotlight can be overwhelming and lead to reluctance to participate in the process. When this happens, the pressure to ensure offenders are fully prosecuted may tempt prosecutors to utilize more extreme methods such as material witness warrants or to seek body attachments or bench warrants—without full appreciation of the impact on the victim or a consideration of possible alternatives.

This presentation discusses the obstacles victims face when considering whether to participate in the prosecution of domestic violence or sexual assault and suggests strategies that prosecutors can use to minimize these barriers to facilitate victim participation. Presenters highlight the negative impacts that pre-trial detention and other next-level measures have on victims and on the community. In circumstances when victims are unable to participate, presenters will discuss possible alternatives for the prosecutor and considerations for balancing public safety risks with victim self-determination.

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Identify barriers faced by victims participating in investigations and prosecutions of sexual and domestic violence.
-Develop strategies to support victim participation.
-Balance public safety concerns in holding offenders accountable with victim interests in autonomy and self-determination.
-Employ the least restrictive methods possible to enable victims to testify when next-level measures must be utilized.

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Moving Towards Justice

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor John Wilkinson discuss how motions practice can enhance individual sexual violence prosecutions while also advancing important legal issues. They discuss how to argue for the admission of “other bad acts” evidence and expert testimony, strategies for opposing defense’s improper discovery requests and motions to pierce the rape shield, and methods for educating judges on novel issues.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Analyze cases to determine issues suitable for pretrial motion practice
– Brief judges on novel legal and factual issues
– Litigate discovery and evidentiary motions to promote victim safety and privacy

Additional resources related to this episode:
Safeguarding Victim Privacy in a Digital World: Ethical Considerations for Prosecutors
The Prosecutors’ Resource on Forfeiture by Wrongdoing
It’s About Context, Not Character: Admitting Evidence Under R. 404(b)

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Recreating the Reality of the Crime

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Patti Powers discuss how prosecutors can present evidence at trial to recreate the crime for jurors through the lens of the victim’s experience. They discuss techniques to bring evidence to life throughout various phases of trial, including jury selection, direct examination of the victim, expert testimony, and closing arguments.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Guide the jury’s response to evidence, from jury selection through closing argument
– Recreate the reality of the crime in direct examination of the victim
– Offer expert testimony to provide clarity and context for the victim’s response to trauma

Additional resources related to this episode:
Achieving Justice at Trial: Direct Examination of Victims of Violent Crimes
Advancing Justice: Interviewing and Presenting Testimony of Victims of Violent Crimes
Model Response to Sexual Violence for Prosecutors (RSVP Model): An Invitation to Lead, § 3.3 — Try the Case

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Seeking Justice with DNA

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Patti Powers explore how DNA evidence can enhance sexual violence investigations and prosecutions, including cases in which the offender is known. They discuss how DNA can uncover serial and cross-over offenders, advanced technologies in the field of DNA forensics, and how to admit DNA evidence and expert testimony at trial.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Describe how DNA evidence can illustrate the dangerousness of offenders
– Admit expert testimony to present DNA evidence and educate the jury
– Link the offender to the victim and crime scene through DNA evidence

Additional resources related to this episode:
DNA 101 – Mixtures, Statistics, and Methodologies: Science and Application to Investigation and Prosecution
DNA Testing, Workflow, Collaboration, and Options
Advancing Justice with Case Review and Informed Strategies for DNA Testing

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Capturing the Totality of the Sexually-Violent Offender

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jenn Dolle discuss crimes that commonly co-occur with sexual violence. They also discuss how prosecutors can assess cases to make approach charging decisions and how additional charges may enhance offender accountability as well as the safety of victims and communities.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Recognize that crimes of sexual violence commonly co-occur with other offenses
– Evaluate evidence and case dynamics to make appropriate charging decisions
– Ensure offenders are prosecuted for the full scope of their criminal activity

Additional resources related to this episode:
Responding to Stalking: A Prosecutor’s Guide to Stalking
– Just Exits Initiative
Prosecuting Image Exploitation
The Prosecutors’ Resource on Witness Intimidation

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jonathan Kurland explore how to analyze and prosecute cases of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault. They discuss how toxicology experts can provide invaluable insight into the nature of the assault, corroborate and explain other evidence, and help prosecutors combat common defenses at trial.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Work with experts to explain the measurement and analysis of intoxicating substances and prescription medications present in a person’s body or to explain their absence
– Recognize offender premeditation and predatory conduct regarding alcohol
– Collaborate with allied professionals to build a victim-centered response that incorporates offender-focused strategies

Additional resources related to this episode:
– Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault: Who Needs Force When You Have Alcohol? Parts 1 and 2 (webinars)
Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault: A Survey of the Law (article)
– Prosecuting Alcohol Facilitated Sexual Assault (publication)
– Alcohol Toxicology for Prosecutors (publication)

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Not Just a Box to Check: Building Trust and Rapport

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor John Wilkinson discuss the importance of building trust and rapport with victims of sexual violence and how this process can improve both case outcomes and victims’ sense of justice. They also discuss important conversations prosecutors should have with victims, strategies for overcoming challenges to building trust, and what to do if trust-building strategies do not initially work.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Assess victim needs and provide meaningful access to appropriate services
– Communicate effectively with victims at all stages of a case
– Improve victim disclosures

Additional resources related to this episode:
First, Do No Harm: Facilitating a Trauma-Informed Response
Integrating a Trauma-Informed Response in Violence Against Women and Human Trafficking Prosecutions
First, Do No Harm: Trauma-Informed Interviewing During the COVID Pandemic

 

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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Collaboration is Key: Working with Law Enforcement

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor John Wilkinson explain how collaboration with law enforcement and other key stakeholders is key to a victim-centered approach, identifies intersections between prosecutors and law enforcement, and discusses how to turn potential conflicts with law enforcement into opportunities for strengthened collaboration.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Identify opportunities to enhance collaboration with law enforcement
– Identify and address possible areas of conflict
– Increase victim safety and participation by demonstrating a holistic approach

Additional resources related to this episode:
Model Response to Sexual Violence for Prosecutors (RSVP) Volume I: An Invitation to Lead, § 3.1-B.1 (Communicate Regularly and Meaningfully With Investigators)
To Record or Not To Record: Use of Body-Worn Cameras During Police Response to Crimes of Violence Against Women
Body-Worn Cameras and Gender-Based Violence: Practical Considerations from the Prosecution Perspective

 

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.

A SANE Approach to Human Trafficking Cases

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are invaluable collaborative partners in a prosecutor’s response to human trafficking. Victims of sex and labor trafficking are at risk of serious injury, as well as short- and long-term physical and psychological health consequences, and SANEs provide much-needed medical care to these patients. Trafficking investigations and prosecutions are also enhanced by the addition of SANEs to a multidisciplinary team. SANEs document injury, collect evidence, and provide critical insight into medical issues and survivor responses to trauma that can educate criminal justice practitioners and jurors alike.

Co-presented by SANE and prosecutor subject-matter experts, this presentation demonstrates the value of collaboration in trafficking cases. The SANE explains the health risks associated with sex and labor trafficking, the content of a medical forensic examination, and documentation of victim statements and demeanor. The prosecutor provides strategies to improve the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases by using SANEs as fact and expert witnesses and litigating the admissibility of victim statements under the medical hearsay exception.

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Enhance prosecutions by ensuring that victims of sex and labor trafficking are provided meaningful access to health care and injuries and medical history are documented
-Articulate the role of the SANE in providing medical-forensic exams
-Present medical evidence and expert testimony at trial

 

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bringing Offenders into Focus: Prosecuting Image Exploitation

Image exploitation involves the nonconsensual creation, possession, or distribution of an image or images depicting victims nude, semi-nude, engaged in consensual sexual activity, or being sexually assaulted. It exposes victims to immeasurable trauma of essentially infinite duration, permanently invading their autonomy and security. As technology continues to evolve more quickly than the law, investigators and prosecutors must be prepared to address image exploitation crimes by collaborating on digital investigations; leveraging existing, if imperfect, statutes; and combating victim-blaming attitudes. 

This presentation explores the various forms of image exploitation and the types of statutes under which this abuse can be prosecuted. The presenter provides strategies to introduce relevant digital evidence while ethically safeguarding victim privacy. Resources are also be provided to support victims who would like to explore non-criminal avenues of achieving justice. 

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Identify crimes of image exploitation and available statutes that may be used to prosecute offenders.
-Make charging decisions that hold offenders accountable for the full extent of their criminal behavior.
-Combat victim-blaming attitudes and articulate the harm caused by offenders who commit crimes of image exploitation.