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PR: New Resource for Defense Attorneys: Mounting an Effective Defense in Proceedings Tainted by ‘Victim-Centered’ Philosophy

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Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


New Resource for Defense Attorneys: Mounting an Effective Defense in Proceedings Tainted by ‘Victim-Centered’ Philosophy

WASHINGTON / February 3, 2021 – A new report released today addresses the growing influence of guilt-presuming “victim-centered” concepts in criminal proceedings. Titled, “Defending Against ‘Victim-Centered’ Proceedings: Guide for Criminal Defense Attorneys,” the report features strategies and verbatim statements to counter bias during each stage of the legal process:

  • Voir Dire
  • Opening Statement
  • Cross Examination: Complainant
  • Cross Examination: Investigator
  • Cross Examination: Prosecution Expert Witness
  • Closing Argument

“Victim-centered” approaches, also known as “trauma-informed” or “Start By Believing,” are gaining wider acceptance among police officers, prosecutors, and even judges in sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse cases:

Investigative bias by police officers has been linked to 35% of all wrongful convictions (1).  But the International Association of Chiefs of Police makes the claim that “Victim-centered, trauma-informed approaches to crime can support victim recovery and engagement with the criminal justice system.” (2)

Prosecutors increasingly are invoking victim-centered theories. One of the most common theories is the complainant experienced “tonic immobility,” resulting in the person being unable to resist an impending assault. This claim has been refuted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (3).

Judges are being urged to embrace victim-centered philosophy, as well.  The website of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, for example, reveals, “The NCJFCJ’s work with courts is informed by a focus on trauma using a universal precautions approach that assumes children and families involved in the court system have experienced some form of trauma that may be mitigated through court-based interventions.” (4)  Policies that “assume” a party has been traumatized serve to vitiate the presumption of innocence and harm judicial impartiality.

Many authorities have voiced criticism of “victim-centered” and “trauma-informed” methods. Defense attorney Scott Greenfield ironically reasons, “The ‘trauma informed’ approach is not to ask, not to question, but to believe.…Who is the victim would seem to be a critical question, but ‘trauma informed’ policing says it’s the woman and should it be the falsely accused man, too bad, so sad. Take a bullet for the cause, guy.” (5)

Victim-centered methods remove a defendant’s due process right to a fair investigation and adjudication. Defense attorneys making discovery requests of police, prosecutors, and judges are urged to ask if they have received “victim-centered” training in order to assess the potential for actual bias and/or the need for recusal.

The new report, developed by SAVE, is available online: