Why Is It So Hard to Believe Disclosures of Sexual Violence and What Can We Do About It?

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 7, 2021

Dean G. Kilpatrick
Dean G. Kilpatrick, PhD
Professor, Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC

American society has a long tradition of disbelieving and discounting disclosures of sexual violence (SV). This deters survivors from reporting crimes and participating in the criminal justice process, and also from accessing services that would help them address SV-related mental health and physical health problems. This session will examine factors that contribute to these harmful practices: lack of knowledge about the true nature of SV, the lingering impact of historical SV laws, and commonly held stereotypes about SV. The session will also explore the role of alcohol-related blackouts in many SV cases and implications for investigation and prosecution. The session will conclude with a discussion of how to use this information to improve public understanding of SV and support for survivors.


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

  • Identify the harm to SV survivors, public health, and public safety caused by the societal tradition of discounting and disbelieving SV disclosures.
  • Explain factors that contribute to this tradition of discounting and disbelieving SV disclosures.
  • Describe alcohol-related blackouts and their role in many SV cases.
  • Apply this information to enhance public awareness about SV, debunk stereotypes, enhance services for survivors, and improve criminal justice system processing of SV cases.


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