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Start by Believing to Improve Responses to Sexual Assault and Prevent Gender Bias (8/2017)
Prosecution expert Herb Tanner delves into the challenges that have been raised with the philosophy of Start by Believing (SBB), and other victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches. In particular, he addresses one specific manner of attack: Defense cross-examination aimed at exposing the law enforcement investigation of a sexual assault as biased. In his discussion, Mr. Tanner draws specific examples from a mock trial demonstration conducted at our 2017 International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Systems Change. He explains how to respond to this type of cross-examination, "rehabilitate" a witness, and turn the defense's own cross-examination to the prosecutor's advantage, by describing how SBB works to reduce gender bias in the law enforcement investigation of sexual assault. Yet, there is also a broader point to keep in mind: Any attack on SBB is really an argument against the larger principle of victim-centered and trauma-informed practices. It is a condemnation of our efforts to prevent gender bias, by changing our response from one that is grounded in stereotypical assumptions and judgments about survivors, to one that is based on the neuroscience of trauma, and the realistic dynamics of sexual assault. Moreover, the arguments marshalled here, for responding to cross-examination, can be as powerful and persuasive outside the courtroom, as in it.
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Last Updated: 10/27/2017 2:06:12 PM
 
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