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Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) | ‘I’m Not Angry’ Says Woman in Case, ‘It Makes Me Sad’

(09/12/2016) The credibility of a complaining witness in a child abuse case is of supreme importance for a number of reasons, not last of which is that testimony about the abuse, if believed, is the only evidence a prosecutor needs to present to a jury to ask for a guilty verdict in a child abuse case.

So states Viktoria Kristiansson, an attorney advisor with AEquitas, a resource organization for prosecutors, specializing in cases involving violence against women and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, who prosecuted child sexual abuse cases, spoke with the Daily Local News on the condition that she not be quoted addressing any case specifically, including Wilkinson’s.

“The goal, the responsibility of a prosecutor is to secure justice,” Kristiansson said. “That is a huge responsibility, because the prosecutor’s responsible for the whole case. They are the most important person in the case.

“Sexual assault cases focus on issues different than other types of cases, like drugs or theft. In those cases, there is the goal of keeping some of those individual (defendants) out of the criminal justice system, with alternatives to prison or special courts. In sexual assault cases, prosecutors are faced with almost the opposite issue. They consider more cases for disposition,” she explained.

“From a prosecutor's standpoint these kinds of cases are challenging on their face,” she continued, speaking about child sexual abuse prosecutions. There often is little or no corroboration by other witnesses, no DNA to bolster the claims, or a time lag between an alleged incident and a police report.

“It is a difficult road for survivors,” Kristiansson said. “A delayed disclosure, for example, is something we see many, many times. Children feel helpless, and they accommodate to survive. It is also not unusual for us to see the child recant. Informing about the abuse is not always in the best interest of the child. But there are tools available so these cases can be prosecuted.”

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