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Raped, Then Jailed: The Risks of Prosecution for Falsely Reporting Sexual Assault

This Training Bulletin focuses on the scenario where victims summon the courage to report a sexual assault, only to be disbelieved, mistreated, and later charged (often erroneously) with false reporting or associated crimes such as obstruction of justice, interfering with law enforcement, or providing false statements. Some have even been charged with a felony crime of evidence tampering, for obtaining a medical forensic examination. In other words, the evidence they are accused of tampering with is their very own body. We explain how these scenarios unfold, highlighting factors that distinguish an interview conducted with a victim versus a suspect in a criminal investigation, and documents how this can result in a coerced recantation or false confession. We then conclude with a discussion of how these injustices can be prevented.

Interviews with Victims vs. Suspects: Start by Believing and the Question of Bias

Sexual assault victims have long faced unwarranted skepticism from friends and family members, as well as responding professionals. In this Training Bulletin, we document examples of this historical bias and examine a few measures that have been taken to help ameliorate it. In particular, we focus on the Start by Believing philosophy and examine its relevance for victim and suspect interviews. Our goal is to inform criminal justice professionals and others about what this philosophy does – and does not – say about how to approach sexual assault cases, including interviews with victims, suspects, and witnesses. Ultimately, we emphasize that Start by Believing is an approach to conducting thorough, professional, and unbiased investigations.

The Investigating Officer’s Direct Exam

In this Training Bulletin, Prosecution Expert Herb Tanner begins with the basics of direct examination, examining the function of the basic direct in a sexual assault trial. Following that, he goes beyond the basic direct to explore how the investigating officer’s trauma-informed investigation lends weight to the victim’s testimony. Building on the first two parts, he the discusses the strategy of offering the investigating officer’s testimony as an expert witness. Finally, he explores the possibility of how robust an investigation can be when it is free, root and branch, from gender bias.

Start by Believing to Improve Response to Sexual Assault & Prevent Gender Bias

In this Training Bulletin, prosecution expert Herb Tanner delves into questions that have been raised with the philosophy of Start by Believing, and other victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches. In particular, he addresses one specific manner of attack: Defense cross-examination aimed at exposing the law enforcement investigation of a sexual assault as biased.

Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

The profound impact of implicit bias on criminal justice processing is highlighted in this guidance published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2015. The DOJ guidance clearly calls on law enforcement agencies to recognize and eliminate bias.

Gender Bias in Sexual Assault Response and Investigation

EVAWI offers a Training Bulletin series designed to explore the phenomenon of gender bias, both explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious), and the resulting stereotypes and attitudes that can influence the professional response to, and investigation of, sexual assault. We explore strategies that can be used to identify the presence of implicit gender bias and mitigate its influence, and address key questions about how implicit gender bias can disadvantage (or advantage) either the victim and/or suspect.

Start by Believing: Participation of Criminal Justice Professionals

This training bulletin addresses the question of whether participation of criminal justice professionals compromises the ability of police and prosecutors to remain objective, potentially opening them up to attacks by defense counsel and/or losing cases at trial.

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