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Dartmouth Week | Women's Center Seeks More Involvement from District Attorney in Sexual Assault Cases on Campus

(06/02/2016) A sexual assault case has never made it to trial in her 21 years at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said the director of the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality Juli Parker.

It’s why she asked attorney advisor Viktoria Kristiansson to speak at the UMass campus on May 20—to help bridge the university with the district attorney’s office.

Parker said that without the tools to address alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, prosecutors shy from college campuses. “The point is to help prosecutors get around the defense saying ‘she consented.’”

In the university’s library, 40 attorneys, police officers, advocates, and health service personnel listened to Kristiansson break down common misunderstandings about how a victim behaves, how an attacker behaves, the effects of alcohol on both men and women, how to dissolve a jury's preconceived notions, and how to better help a victim so that—even if they lose the case—the victim still feels supported by the justice system.

“If the college has a better understanding of the process, the victim feels more supported and is more likely to engage with law enforcement,” said Kristiansson. This way, faculty have a go-to for answering questions and prosecutors see what is happening on college campuses, said Kristiansson.

Kristiansson presented staggering facts like only six percent of rape victims sustained severe physical injuries (Office of Justice Programs, 2002) and over six percent of participants in a student survey took credit for 439 rapes and attempted rapes, 49 sexual assaults, and 277 acts of sexual abuse against children (Lisak and Miller, 2002).

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Kristiansson works for AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women, a nonprofit specialized in training prosecutors to objectively evaluate their approach in sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking cases.

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