Sexually Assaulted, Disbelieved, Prosecuted and Acquitted: Lessons from Virginia

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 20, 2022

Carlton Hershman
Detective (Ret.), San Diego Police Department
Lisa Avalos
Lisa Avalos
Associate Professor
Louisiana State University
Melissa Hordichuk
Melissa Hordichuk
Executive Director & Managing Attorney
Access to Justice, Inc.
Dyanie Bermeo
Dyanie Bermeo
King University Class of 2021 Alumna

Imagine that someone in your community is sexually assaulted and tells the police. Initially the investigator appears to take them seriously, but the case stalls. The victim interview turns into an interrogation, and police pressure the victim to retract their allegations. Desperate to end this ordeal, the victim recants. But to their surprise, the investigator and prosecutor use the recantation to charge them with false reporting. 

Inconceivable? This nightmare scenario has happened to many victims including Dyanie Bermeo. After being convicted of false reporting in a bench trial, Ms. Bermeo was acquitted on appeal when her legal team persuaded the judge that the prosecution had failed to prove that Ms. Bermeo’s report was false.

Lisa Avalos and Carlton Hershman testified as expert witnesses in this case. They will analyze how poor policing practices led to unwarranted false reporting charges, and what could have been done differently. Melissa Hordichuk will describe the strategies she used in representing Ms. Bermeo. Ms. Bermeo will speak about the impact this ordeal has had on her.

The session will raise awareness about these wrongful prosecutions and will address relevant best practices, helping law enforcement avoid the errors that led to charges against Ms. Bermeo.


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

  • Identify some of the common failures in sexual assault investigations when complainants are charged with false reporting.
  • Describe some of the risks involved in prosecuting victims for false reporting.
  • Effectively use training materials from EVAWI and other sources to ensure thorough, evidence-based investigations and to avoid wrongful arrests and prosecutions of victims.
  • Advocate for sexual assault victims facing disbelief from law enforcement.

With a paid registration or subscription, you are free to personally listen to this webinar, as many times as you wish. You may also excerpt or cite the material following accepted conventions. However, you may not allow other individuals to listen to this webinar without their own registration or subscription.

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