Hold Team Meetings . Monitor and Evaluate Your Efforts . Sustain Your SART . Know Your Team . Critical Issues
Although prosecutors are not victims' attorneys, they can advocate for victims' rights and proactively address victims' concerns. For example, many victims are unfamiliar with the criminal justice process. Most have not been to court before. They may be highly apprehensive about seeing offenders in close proximity, fear testifying about the details of their assaults, and worry about an adversarial cross-examination process. To overcome these concerns, prosecutors can help victims by orienting them to the criminal justice system, providing waiting areas that are separate from offenders, and working with advocates to help meet victims' emotional needs.
Prosecutors may also
- Seek no-contact orders as conditions of bail or release of offenders on their own recognizance.
- Pursue defendants who harass, threaten, or intimidate victims.
- Work with civil attorneys to assist victims with landlord, employer, educator, and creditor issues when needed.
- Incorporate victims' views in bail arguments, continuances, plea negotiations, dismissals, sentencing, and restitution.
- Arrange prompt return of victims' property when it is no longer needed as evidence.
- Keep the same prosecutor throughout the criminal justice process (vertical prosecution).
Victim and Witness Forms, U.S. Department of Defense
Vertical prosecution means that one prosecutor is responsible for and stays with sexual assault cases from the time charges are filed through sentencing. Vertical prosecution fosters an ongoing working relationship between prosecutors and victims that promotes case continuity and may minimize attrition.
At the scene of the crime and shortly thereafter, victims may be unable to recall critical facts related to their victimization. In addition, victims' initial statements sometimes create significant problems for prosecutors. These two dilemmas occur because different coping mechanisms can create seemingly counterintuitive behavior in victims. For more information on victim trauma and coping mechanisms, see the following resources:
- In This Toolkit: Understand Victims
- Incomplete, Inconsistent, and Untrue Statements Made by Victims: Understanding the Causes and Overcoming the Challenges.
- Victim Responses to Sexual Assault: Counterintuitive or Simply Adaptive?
- Explaining Counterintuitive Victim Behavior in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases
- Introducing Expert Testimony to Explain Victim Behavior in Sexual and Domestic Violence Prosecutions