Eliminating the Wheel of Fortune: Ending Practices that Lead to Prosecuting Survivors

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60 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 11, 2023

Lisa Avalos
Lisa Avalos, JD, PhD
Associate Professor of Law

Start by Believing has been a game changer in a number of communities, but there is still much work to do. For many survivors of sexual assault, whether they are believed, disbelieved, or worse, is a game of roulette that depends on the training, experience, and commitment of the law enforcement agency handling their assault. For the most unfortunate of these survivors, being disbelieved is not simply a matter of their rapist going unprosecuted. Victims, even today, have been charged with false reporting or other crimes, and some even sentenced to prison. Some cases have had particularly tragic consequences with victims taking their own lives, or where perpetrators have been left free to reoffend and even commit murder.

This session will examine the unfinished landscape of Start by Believing. It will analyze several cases where victims of sexual assault were wrongly charged or prosecuted for false reporting or other crimes, and it will outline the steps we need to take to ensure that sexual assault victims receive a uniformly supportive response across all law enforcement agencies. The presenter will speak from her experience doing expert witness work and conducting in-depth investigations into numerous cases where sexual assault survivors, rather than their perpetrators, have been charged and prosecuted.


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

  • Identify some of the common failures in sexual assault investigations when victims are charged with false reporting or related crimes.
  • Describe some of the risks involved in prosecuting victims for false reporting.
  • Apply best practice strategies to ensure thorough, evidence-based investigations, advocate for victims facing disbelief from authorities, and avoid inappropriate prosecutions.

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