Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices Regarding Participation in the Prosecution of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence

The criminal justice process can expose survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to unique re-traumatization. While multidisciplinary response efforts employing victim-centered and trauma-informed practices have greatly facilitated the reporting and engagement of survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, the process itself remains daunting. Some survivors ultimately decline to participate, avoiding service of process or refusing to appear under subpoena. This article explores strategies that will assist advocates and allied professionals in guiding and supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process in ways that will help to ensure that their choices about participation are fully informed and that their interests are protected and advanced at all stages in the process.

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.

Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices

 

A Course of Exploitation: The Intersection of Stalking and Sex Trafficking

When offenders engage in a course of conduct that includes sexual exploitation, they perpetrate dangerous and often misidentified and misunderstood crimes, including stalking and sex trafficking. Both crimes are highly contextual in nature and require a nuanced analysis of the relationship between the offender and the victim, as well as the various tactics utilized by abusers to control, intimidate, and traumatize victims with impunity. Stalking behaviors are used to force or coerce individuals to engage in commercial sexual activities or to intimidate and prevent them from engaging with the criminal justice system.

Presenters explore the dynamics of stalking and sex trafficking. They focus on the importance of understanding the context in which both crimes occur and the common tactics used by perpetrators. This presentation provides strategies to improve the identification of these “course of conduct” crimes, increase offender accountability through successful investigations and prosecutions, and minimize further harm to victims and survivors by ensuring they are connected with meaningful services and tools to plan for their safety.

At the end of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Recognize the intersections between stalking and sexual exploitation
-Investigate and prosecute crimes of stalking and sexual exploitation
-Connect victims and survivors to meaningful services, including safety planning

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and 2017-TA-AX-K074 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

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

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

This article explains the problems that have arisen as a result of overreliance on conviction rates in cases of sexual violence. It identifies the core principles that should inform a model response to these crimes to further the goals of justice — i.e., offender accountability, victim well-being, and community safety. Finally, it discusses how prosecutors can broaden definitions of “success” in the prosecution of sexual violence, and how they can measure their current response as well as efforts toward improvement.

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.

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

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: 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: 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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: The Trauma-Informed Prosecutor

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 trauma affects a survivor of sexual violence, including their behaviors, their ability to disclose and recount details of the assault, and their ability to participate in the prosecution of the offender. They also discuss how prosecutors can utilize trauma-informed strategies to establish rapport with victims and to elicit details of the assault, as well as considerations for when victims are ultimately unable to participate in prosecution. 

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Recognize trauma and its effects
– Implement trauma-informed practices to support victim participation
– Conduct trauma-informed interviews and direct examinations

Additional resources related to this episode:
Integrating a Trauma-Informed Response in Violence Against Women and Human Trafficking Prosecutions 
Enhancing Conviction Integrity through Forensics Webinar — Achieving Justice at Trial: Direct Examination of Victims of Violent Crimes
Enhancing Conviction Integrity through Forensics Webinar: Advancing Justice: Interviewing and Presenting Testimony of Victims of Violent Crimes

 

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.