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HuffPost | How To Convict a Rapist

(04/28/2018) They’re taking a course on sexual assault cases run by AEquitas, an organization that wants to transform the way prosecutors think about sexual violence through interactive training that involves role-playing and mock trials.

Sexual assaults are the most difficult kind of crimes to prosecute: Of the 31 percent of cases that are reported to police, less than 2 percent result in convictions, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. One of the biggest reasons these numbers are so low is that, despite the complexity of sexual assault trials, lawyers are not required to go through any specialized training before handling them. Many prosecutors throw out cases, mistreat complainants and botch lawsuits in court because they don’t understand victim behavior.

“Everyone thinks they are doing the right thing,” says Jennifer Long, AEquitas’ CEO. “And they might not realize that while some practices in their jurisdiction are really good, others are not good.”

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The way prosecutors interview victims before a trial is a crucial part of sexual violence cases. Yet too often lawyers make a series of faux pas, said John Wilkinson, an attorney adviser at AEquitas who runs trainings. When dealing with victims, prosecutors tend to rush the process, ask judgmental questions and assume victims are lying if they have a scattered memory or appear unemotional, he said. Many don’t know that in traumatic situations the body releases a series of hormones that may cause victims to freeze and prevent their brains from forming memories. Or that survivors might laugh or speak with a flat affect while recounting the assault, due to a flood of natural opiates and oxytocin in the body that help people cope with pain.

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