Challenging Victims: The Delicate Dynamics of Drug & Alcohol Facilitated Sexual Assault

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
September 22, 2017

Herbert Tanner
Herbert Tanner, Jr.
JD, Trainer / Consultant, HR Tanner Consulting LLC,
Wendy Patrick
Wendy Patrick
JD, PhD, Deputy District Attorney, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Sexual assault, especially non-stranger assaults in alcohol and drug-fueled settings often involve some of the most difficult and delicate case dynamics when it comes to working with victims and witnesses. Successful collaboration between investigators, victim witness advocates, and prosecutors is essential to gaining victim trust, and maintaining victim cooperation throughout the length of the case.

This presentation will detail best practices involved in making initial victim contact, collaboration between prosecutors and investigators, interviewing victims prior to the charging decision, requesting additional follow-up by investigators, and using expert witnesses to explain victim-perpetrator dynamics in sexual assault cases.

The presenters will also discuss how alcohol can affect the way a victim behaves during and after the assault, can impair memory, and the challenges often inherent in victim statements, including inconsistencies, omissions, and untruths. They will describe strategies for increasing the accuracy of a victim’s statement-which is often a significant issue when the sexual assault was preceded by a night of overindulgence by both the victim and perpetrator.


As a result of this session, participants will be better able to:

  • Tailor an approach to initial victim contact designed to build trust and maximize information gathering.
  • Maintain a working relationship of trust and transparency with victims in order to facilitate cooperation throughout the life cycle of a case.
  • Identify areas in each case where expert testimony would assist the trier of fact.
  • Identify the effect of alcohol on behavior and memory, identify the dose-dependent nature of impairment due to drinking, and identify at least two legal drugs that can increase the impact of alcohol consumption.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K015 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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