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: 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: 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.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: The Perfect Plan: Accessibility, Vulnerability, and Perceived Lack of Credibility

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 offenders target, access, and assault their victims, as well as how they use victims’ vulnerabilities to escape accountability. They also discuss how prosecutors can reframe the narrative at trial to maximize accountability for offenders and seek justice for victims.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Identify and collect evidence of the offender’s predatory behavior
– Develop an offender-focused theme and theory
– Recreate the reality of the crime at trial

Additional resources related to this episode:
Model Response to Sexual Violence for Prosecutors (RSVP Model)
Overcoming the Consent Defense: Prosecuting Known Offenders
The Prosecutors’ Resource on Sexual Violence Cases Involving Victims with Intellectual Disabilities

 

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.

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.

Justice Systems from a Child’s Perspective: Supporting Young Trafficking Survivors

This webinar highlights the Center for Court Innovation’s (CCI) Child Witness Materials Development Project, an initiative funded by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and a partner project of AEquitas. In 2021, OVC published a package of support materials for child victims and witnesses of crime that CCI had created, and in January 2022, OVC published an additional package of interactive support materials specifically for youth who have experienced human trafficking. A multidisciplinary group of national trafficking experts with professional and and lived experience contributed to the design and development of these materials.

In this webinar, participants learn more about how young trafficking survivors experience the justice system, and how they can address youth’s needs and provide developmentally-appropriate information and emotional support. Participants learn how to effectively use the Child Witness materials in their roles so youth feel more informed and empowered as they navigate their own healing process in addition to navigating the system.

Self-Collected Sexual Assault Kits: Assessing and Mitigating the Risks

This article focuses on self-collected sexual assault kits—sometimes known as “do-it-yourself” or “DIY” kits— that are self-administered post-assault and involve the collection and preservation of evidence from the body in a non-medical setting. It examines the rationale behind self-collected kits for victims of sexual violence who state that they want to address their trauma outside the healthcare and criminal justice systems; the challenges self-collected kits present for prosecutors; and the limitations of self-collected kits to provide critical victim care, treatment, and support traditionally provided through the sexual assault medical forensic exam (SAMFE) process. The authors discuss the available alternatives for those circumstances in which self-collected kits may be perceived to be the best available option. Finally, where self-collected kits have been used, the authors offer strategies to mitigate the evidentiary, advocacy, and legal challenges they present. SIB38_Jan22