Believe the Victim

PR: Legal Experts and Professors Join Forces, Endorse Letter Opposing Biased Investigation Practices

Telephone: 301-801-0608


Legal Experts and Professors Join Forces, Endorse Letter Opposing Biased Investigation Practices

WASHINGTON / July 23, 2018 – Over 150 criminal attorneys, law professors, and scholars across the country who are concerned about widespread bias in sexual assault investigations have signed an Open Letter denouncing inequitable and unfair “victim-centered” investigative practices.

The letter concludes, “By their very name, their ideology, and the methods they foster, ‘believe the victim’ concepts presume the guilt of an accused. This is the antithesis of the most rudimentary notions of justice. In directing investigators to corroborate allegations, ignore reporting inconsistencies, and undermine defenses, the ‘believe the victim’ movement threatens to subvert constitutionally-rooted due process protections.”

Many of the victim-centered practices discussed in the Letter have become widely utilized by college administrators, drawing the ire of judges in both state and federal courts. “[I]n a stunning collective judicial rebuke to many campuses’ unfair treatment of students accused of sexual misconduct, courts have issued at least 102 rulings against universities since 2011 compared with 88 rulings in their favor.” (1)

Victim-centered practices, sometimes referred to as “Start by Believing,” are becoming widespread in the criminal justice system, as well (2). In 2016 an Arizona governor’s commission issued a letter advising the state’s criminal justice agencies to reject “Start by Believing” investigative methods because their use “creates the possibility of real or perceived confirmation bias.” (3)

These legitimate concerns have already manifest in actual cases. (4) Defense attorneys will likely begin to expose the biased training to the fact finders.  As for institutions of higher education, journalist Emily Yoffee suggests that faculty members “should also model for their students how an open society functions, and how necessary it is to protect the civil liberties of everyone.” (5)

The Open Letter is available at  For a list of the 20 editorials published in 2018 critical of the ‘believe the victim’ approach, visit





(4) &


SAVE — Stop Abusive and Violent Environments — is working for effective and fair solutions to domestic violence and campus sexual assault: