Not Just a Credibility Contest: Sexual Violence Prosecutions That Go Beyond “Offender Said, Victim Said”

Sexual violence cases are often mistakenly reduced to a contest of credibility between the victim’s disclosure and the offender’s denial. Even though jurisdictions do not require corroboration of the victim’s testimony at trial, jurors may find it difficult to convict a defendant absent additional evidence. While crimes of sexual violence typically do not occur in front of other individuals, there are always witnesses and evidence to corroborate what happened before, during, and after the assault. By presenting the full scope of admissible evidence, prosecutors will increase the likelihood of success at trial while reducing the burden on victims.

This presentation addresses strategies and tactics to understand and explain victim disclosures through a trauma-informed lens; utilize victim behavior experts to educate fact-finders about the range of victim responses to sexual violence; and examine offender characteristics, motivations, and behaviors, as well as the impact of the offender’s actions on the victim. The presenter suggests strategies for overcoming common misconceptions at trial, including establishing a compelling trial theme, introducing evidence of the defendant’s predatory behavior, presenting corroborating evidence to support witness credibility, and recreating the reality of the crime for the jury.

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Maintain focus on the offender.
-Support victim and witness credibility with corroborating evidence.
-Develop and present expert testimony to explain victim behavior. -Recreate the reality of the crime at trial.

Intimate Partner Violence Foundations: Technology Changes, Abuse Doesn’t

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

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jon Kurland discuss the role of technology in intimate partner violence cases. They explore how offenders misuse technology to perpetrate crimes and assert power and control, and they offer strategies for litigating the admissibility of digital evidence and protecting victim privacy.

At the conclusion of this presentation, viewers will be better able to:

  • Keep up to date with technology and trends;
  • Litigate admissibility of digital evidence; and
  • Protect victim privacy.

Additional resources for this episode:

Intimate Partner Violence Foundations: Capturing Coercive Control

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

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jon Kurland discuss how offenders assert coercive control in abusive relationships, strategies for admitting evidence of coercive control to provide context to the violence, and when to charge co-occurring crimes. They explore how an offender’s coercive control tactics can be identified through interviews, investigation, and collaboration; how these tactics can be introduced as evidence in trial through 404(b) motions; and how coercive control may provide evidence to support additional charges, such as stalking.

At the conclusion of this presentation, viewers will be better able to:

  • Identify offenders’ tactics of coercive control tactics;
  • Litigate the admission of other crimes, wrongs, and acts; and
  • Analyze coercive control in relation to stalking.

Additional resources related to this episode:

First, Do No Harm: Facilitating a Trauma-Informed Response

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

Confronting Racial Bias Against Black and African American Victims in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking

The history of racial discrimination against Black Americans in the United States created structural barriers and inequalities that Black women continue to face as victims of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking.. The article offers examples of how racial bias has shaped the criminal justice response to these crimes and provides prosecutors with tangible tools for eradicating biases against Black victims. Confronting-Racial-Bias-Against-Black-and-African-American-Victims

Just Exits: Assessing Culpability: Context Before Conviction

Human traffickers assert force, fraud, and coercion against victims in order to profit from commercial sex or forced labor or services. Offenders use a variety of tactics designed to ensure that victims will do what they are told without resistance, questioning, or disclosure to law enforcement. This physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual control too often allows traffickers to escape accountability.  This presentation is designed to improve responses to trafficking and exploitation while ensuring that victims are not inappropriately charged with crimes they are forced to commit.


Collaboration is key to any response to trafficking and exploitation, but imperative where the complexity of victim-offender dynamics is not easily understood or revealed.  This presentation provides law enforcement and prosecutors with strategies to uncover the reality of the victim’s involvement in the trafficking organization or within the exploitation dynamic. Presenters provide a framework for assessing the culpability of individuals who may initially be identified as both victims and defendants. They also provide suggestions to assist prosecutors in making ethical and appropriate immunity and charging decisions as well as designing appropriate dispositions.

Part III: The Principles of Witness Protection

Join AEquitas for the third of a three-part webinar series that explores the ways in which offenders and their allies intimidate victims and witnesses of crime, the effects of intimidation on the criminal justice system response, and the methods for preventing and responding to witness intimidation. Part III of the series focuses on the principles of witness protection, which include tactical considerations, addressing the trauma to the victim/witness, and supporting lifestyle changes. The presenter discusses the importance of determining whether an imminent and credible threat against the life of a victim/witness exists by utilizing a dynamic screening and threat assessment tool, understanding the impact of trauma on the path to change, and recognizing the signs of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others.

Confronting Racial Bias & Implementing Strategies to Ensure Justice in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking

This web-based panel is hosted by AEquitas and the National Black Prosecutors Association and explores the ways in which bias against Black women affects the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Panelists address the following topics:

-Effects of inequalities and challenges that Black women uniquely face as victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking;

-Barriers to reporting crimes—such as bias and stereotypes held by law enforcement prosecutors, judges, and jurors— which can translate into disparate outcomes for victims through unfair credibility determinations; 

-The impact of bias on the accuracy of assessments of the probability of conviction in cases, and the collateral consequences on a victim’s ability to seek restoration; 

-The necessary commitment offices must make to eradicate implicit bias among its staff and enhance recruitment, mentorship, and support for individuals who are Black and/or African American and people of color; and

-Strategies for prosecutors’ offices to enhance justice for victims by engaging in cultural humility, promoting criminal record relief, improving training, and ensuring accountability reinforced by data.

Gang-Related Violence Against Women

Gangs are notorious for perpetrating firearm- and drug-related offenses, but many gangs and their members also regularly engage in violence against women, including rape, physical violence, and human trafficking. Gang members use physical and sexual violence to control their victims and the communities within which they operate. Additionally, some gangs engage in trafficking to exploit gang members and non-members to increase gang profits. The pervasive nature of gang-related violence, combined with gang members’ habitual intimidation of victims and witnesses, present unique challenges to the effective investigation and prosecution of these cases.

This presentation discusses tangible strategies for improving the identification, investigation, and prosecution of gang-related violence against women. The presenter explores collaborative methods for supporting victims, enhancing community safety, holding gang offenders accountable, and preventing and effectively responding to witness intimidation.

Funding Opportunity: Innovative Prosecution Solutions FY’20

The U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will be offering funding to state and local prosecutor’s offices for its FY’20 Innovative Prosecution Solutions for Combating Violent Crime (IPS) initiative. The IPS program supports prosecutor-led strategies for responding to violent crime and enhancing public safety.

Join BJA and AEquitas, the lead Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) provider on the IPS initiative, for a webinar on the upcoming solicitation. It will include a discussion of application eligibility and the application process, program requirements, and examples of previously successful proposals.