Even when properly investigated, the majority of reported sexual assaults are not successfully prosecuted. Prosecutors often argue that police reports are severely lacking while law enforcement argues that prosecuting attorneys want a sure win. No matter how good an investigation is–the prosecuting attorney may not feel confident filing criminal charges if the reports are incomplete or inaccurate. Or if the prosecutor files charges, the defendant may be acquitted if the reports summarizing the investigation are poorly written.
Defense attorneys often win cases because they attack the credibility of the investigation and the perception of the victim’s credibility, often with ammunition that comes from the investigator’s own reports.
A good report is more than an accurate summary of the facts. A good report anticipates potential defense strategies and provides the information necessary to counter them.
This webinar is designed to help investigators write a report that will support successful prosecution. The session thus begins by outlining the many purposes of an investigator’s report, and goes on to summarize some of the various techniques for effective report writing, such as:
- Recreating the reality of the sexual assault from the victim’s perspective
- Preserving the exact words used by the victim
- Describing what the victim was thinking and feeling at the time of the sexual assault
- Using descriptive wording when accurate and appropriate
- Documenting the entire context of force, threat, or fear that the victim experienced
- Using the language of non-consensual sex and creating accurate “word pictures
- Documenting unique factors that affect the victim’s experience, perspective, and response
- Summarizing the evidence and corroboration uncovered during the course of the investigation
- Exploring the benefits of recording victim’s statements, for both the investigator and the victim
- Documenting suspect statements, especially those that corroborate the victim’s account or provide an implausible or even absurd version of reality
This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K021 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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