Tragic Endings: When Suicide or Homicide Follows a Botched Sexual Assault Investigation

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 11, 2023

Lisa Avalos
Lisa Avalos, JD, PhD
Associate Professor of Law
Carlton Hershman
Detective (Ret.)

This presentation will offer in-depth cases where sexual assault victims have been prosecuted for false reporting or related crimes. The session will unpack common errors that occur when investigating sexual assault and how faulty investigations may lead to prosecution of the complainant. The presenters will discuss how these errors can be replaced with best practices.

The workshop will focus particular attention on two cases. First, Megan Rondini, who reported a sexual assault to police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2015, and then took her own life several months later after a poor police response. Second, Eleanor de Freitas, who reported a rape to police in London, England in 2013 and was later charged with false reporting. Three days before her trial was to begin, she took her own life. A third case involves homicide after a rape went uncharged.

These cases share several commonalities not only in the tragic outcomes, but in terms of practices that produced those outcomes. Throughout the session, the presenters will pinpoint what went wrong and demonstrate, step by step, how to approach investigations more effectively to ensure appropriate outcomes. Participants will learn to recognize approaches to sexual assault investigations that are counter-productive and can cause additional harm to the victim. They will learn how to identify and embrace more constructive approaches to investigation.


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

  • Identify common errors that occur in investigations that have the potential to lead to prosecution of the complainant.
  • Explain the risks associated with prosecuting victims for false reports. 
  • Examine best practice strategies that improve investigations, reduce harm to the victim, and ultimately reduce the likelihood of prosecuting victims for false reports. 
  • Apply best practice strategies to ensure thorough, evidence-based investigations. 

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