3Language MattersCases are won and Lost Due to Excellent or Poor Language Choices During:Victim InterviewsDocumentationTestimony
4Victim’s Behavior Characteristics: Self blameHumiliation and embarrassmentLoss of affect or numb responseOmission of detailsReluctance to reportIncomplete memoryNightmares/flashbacksAnger at others for not protecting him/her
5Emotions Involved with Sexual Assault HumiliationShame and self-blameGuiltFear of peopleGrief and depressionDenialAnger and irritability
6Issues Specific to Sexual Assault Sexual assault is one of the few crimes that requires intense scrutiny into the believability of the victim’s description of the eventIt is probably the only crime in which the suspect can successfully defend himself by claiming the victim consented to the crime
7Three Major Needs Victims Have The need to feel safe.The need to express their emotions.The need to know what comes next after their victimization.People often feel helpless, vulnerable, and frightened by the trauma of their victimizationIntroduce yourself by name and title. Briefly explain your role and purpose.Assure victim of their safety and your concern by paying attention to your own words, posture, mannerisms and tone of voice. Use body language to show your concern.Ask victim to tell you in a entence or two what happened. If there are physical injuries, take care of medical needs first.Offer to contact a family member, friend, or crisis counselor.Ensure privacy during the interview.Ask simple questions that allow victims to make decisions and regain control.Assure victims of confidentiality.Ask victims about special concerns or needs.Provide safety net before leaving them. Asutin case where perp./police broke down the door and perp. Layed in wait for victim.Give victims your name (in writing) and information on how to contact you.
8The Role of Professionals The dignity and healing of victims depends on the respect and assistance extended by professionals.
9Re-victimization Insensitive questioning by police Criminal justice attitudes suggesting that the victim contributed to his/her own victimizationDelays in the return of personal propertyFear of reprisal by the defendantLack of information on the status of the case
10Things NOT to Say Everything is going to be alright Don’t cry You shouldn’t feel that wayI know how you feelYou must get on with your lifeI promise I’ll get this guy and he’ll go to prison for a long time
11REMEMBER, YOU ARE THERE FOR THE VICTIM, THE VICTIM IS NOT THERE FOR YOU.
12Language in Interviews Language is critical in victim interviews.The victim may be “the best evidence” in a case if approached with the right interviewing techniques,.Mistakes by an officer during the interview or in reporting can have a positive or negative impact on the case.How presentation will benefit audience: Adult learners are more interested in a subject if they know how or why it is important to them.Presenter’s level of expertise in the subject: Briefly state your credentials in this area, or explain why participants should listen to you.
13Language CAN Explain her thoughts and feelings Discover valuable corroborating cluesMake a victim more willing and able to navigate the criminal justice processLead to successful prosecution of a Known Violent Offender
14Language CAN Also Shut her down Confuse or under-inform judges, juries, mediaLose cases that should have been won
15Good Verbal and Written Language Skills Maintains cooperation from victim.Clears up inconsistencies in statements.Encourages victim to tell the entire truth and not omit information which would later be used to challenge his or her credibility, e.g. drug or alcohol use.Builds a stronger case.Avoids re-victimization.
16The Interview Build rapport and trust Explain the purpose of the interviewAddress questions the victim can’t answerAddress concerns regarding prosecutionUse open-ended questionsAllow the victim control
17Importance of a safe, nonjudgmental environment Encourages a more thorough and truthful reportRemove the incentive to be untruthful.My favorite place
18Information Needed by the Investigator DescribeVictim’s behavior and relationship with the suspectSuspect’s behaviorDocument specific acts committedSuspects sexual behaviorEstablish force or threat of forceSuspects descriptionEstablish M.O. or signature
19Challenge: Lack of Physical Resistance Victims often don’t resist because they are surprised, confused or fear injury or death.They are threatened if the assailant is larger and/or stronger.They are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
20Police reconstruct the victim’s reality Describe her account including her thoughts and feelings.Reconstruct her reality for prosecutors and jurors so they will understand why she didn’t physically resist her assailant.
21Challenge: Delayed Reporting Delayed reporting is typical, especially in non-stranger assault.“Imagine a child molested by a stepfather or other relative versus a stranger in the park. In which case is the victim most likely to go to police?”
22Why victims delay reporting? They fear they won’t be believed.Fear what will happen to their lives after they report.They don’t recognize what happened to them as a crime.They feel shame and guilt.
23Overcoming the challenge of delayed reporting The interview should obtain information which explains the delay in reporting.Thorough documentation of actions and thoughts.Interviews with others the victim disclosed the assault to, especially the first person.
24Dealing with Inconsistent or Untrue Statements Why will a victim make an inconsistent or untrue statement?Rape trauma syndromeDiscomfort talking about sexRepeated interviewsFear of blame, shameTheir own drug or alcohol useTheir own illegal behavior
25Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony Erotic/Affectionate Characterization of Sexual Assault“Suspect then made love with her…”“She then had sex with him…”
26Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony Sexual Assault as Distinct from ViolenceHe kissed her and then put his penis into her vagina.He held her and slid two fingers into her.
27Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony Appropriate Resistance by the Victim or Questionable Actions of VictimVictim stated she didn’t do anything to stop him.Victim never made any attempt to scream or get away.Victim willingly drank alcohol with him.Victim never called the police after the alleged attack (delayed reporting).
28Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony Good Character of the OffenderSmith was polite and calm during the interview.He said he would never hurt a woman.Smith indicated that Victim is bi-polar and off her medications.Smith promised he would take care of her so we would not have to come back out.
29Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony Grammatically Omitting or Minimizing Agent of the AssaultVictim was assaulted.The woman said she is a victim of abuse.She said he is never violent unless he drinks.
30Problematic Language Areas in Documentation and Testimony “Cop Speak”“Suspect exited the vehicle and proceeded…”Oral CopulationDigital penetration
31Strategy Erotic/Affectionate Characterization of Sexual Assault Appropriate use of verbs and descriptions:Raped or Sodomized as opposed to “had sex with” or “made love with…”
32Strategy Sexual Assault as Distinct from Violence Include the violence in your reports and testimony and use vivid verbs.Suspect clamped his mouth onto Victim’s and forced his tongue into her mouth…Suspect shoved his penis into her vagina and raped her…
33Strategy Lack of Resistance or Questionable Actions by Victims Articulate her fearsUnderstand WHY she didn’t reportBe honest about drug/alcohol use (it’s the omission that’ll get you)
34Strategy“Good Character” of Suspect or Suspect’s Efforts to Blame VictimUnderstand “Batterer’s M.O.”Recognize efforts to charm/manipulate you.
35Strategy Grammatically Omitting or Minimizing Agent of the Assault NAME the Suspect and keep that person as the SUBJECT (action-taker) in your reports and testimonyBob Smith raped his girlfriend during the argument...
36StrategyCop SpeakTalk and Write Like a Professional, Approachable PersonThe suspect jumped out of his car and ran…He then forced two of his fingers into her vagina…
37ConclusionThe words we use when speaking to victims and when documenting their responses and our findings are CRITICAL in terms of:Successful ProsecutionLong-term Emotional Recovery of VictimThe Safety and Well-Being of our Communities