Many Rape Victims Say Justice System Still Fails Them Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was swiftly arrested after being accused of sexual assault in May. But some victims' advocates say such a rapid response is unusual, and that the criminal justice system is still too quick to blame the victim.
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Many Rape Victims Say Justice System Still Fails Them

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Many Rape Victims Say Justice System Still Fails Them


Many Rape Victims Say Justice System Still Fails Them

Many Rape Victims Say Justice System Still Fails Them

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was swiftly arrested after being accused of sexual assault in May. But some victims' advocates say such a rapid response is unusual, and that the criminal justice system is still too quick to blame the victim.


Joanne Archambault, executive director, End Violence Against Women International
Kristina Korobov, Senior Attorney, National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women

NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now former head of the International Monetary Fund, shines a bright light on the cops who investigate rape and the prosecutors who take those charges to court. There isn't always evidence, it's usually he said, she said, with no other witnesses. And too often victims are ignored, belittled or worse. In the Strauss-Kahn case, however, police swiftly arrested one of the most powerful men in the world, and the D.A.'s office assigned top prosecutors to the high-profile investigation. We'll talk with a former sex crimes cop and with a lawyer who trains prosecutors.

We want to hear from you too. If you've been involved in a sex assault as a victim, investigator or a prosecutor, call and tell us your story. The phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to, click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the program, to Arizona as the fight against the Wallow fire spills over into New Mexico as well. But first the investigation and prosecution of rape. We begin with Joanne Archambault, the executive director of a nonprofit group called End Violence Against Women International. She previously supervised the sex crimes unit of the San Diego Police Department. And joins us from her office in Addy, Washington and nice to have you with us today.

JOANNE ARCHAMBAULT (End Violence Against Women International): Thank you very much. Good afternoon everybody.

CONAN: And what's the first thing you do, let's say you get a phone call from a victim?

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, assuming since I represent law enforcement that that person has called communications, we would dispatch an officer out. And that officer would make sure that person is safe and we would, if that person needed emergency medical attention, paramedics would come behind us. Usually that's not the case. Less than 3 percent of sexual assault victims need emergency medical attention. So we would explain who we are, what we're going to do, evaluate for what type of crime occurred and evaluate whether or not there should be a forensic exam.

CONAN: Whether or not there should be a - that would mean going to the emergency room after all.

ARCHAMBAULT: Some communities use emergency rooms. Some have freestanding facilities, understanding that we don't want our victims being triaged with heart attack victims and gunshot victims and car accidents. So we would take them to a facility, hopefully that has trained forensic examiners, either physicians or nurses. Nurses are - tend to be the better practiced. They're usually called out to specifically address and take care of the needs of this patient, so that they're not being triaged in an emergency room with other emergencies.

CONAN: And should there - is there someone else in the room when the police first meet with somebody who's said she's been raped?

ARCHAMBAULT: Again, if the person called communications and I'm dispatching a patrol officer, sometimes the victim will have a friend or a loved one around and they can oftentimes be present during that preliminary interview. Once they typically get to the forensic exam facility, the idea would be that an advocate from the rape crisis center would show up. And the officer would show up with the victim and the forensic examiner would be there. And the officer would brief the forensic examiner on what they know happened and then typically the officer leaves and the advocate and the forensic examiner would then continue.

CONAN: Because that forensic exam, I think clinical is a good way to put it, but it can be difficult for people.

ARCHAMBAULT: It is very difficult. Women don't like to go their annual gynecological exam without having trauma. So we're talking about somebody who has experienced trauma, it's embarrassing. We have worked very, very hard to have these trained forensic examiners, nurses and physicians so that they know what they're doing. In the old days, these poor doctors in the emergency room would pick up this kit and maybe they have never had any training and they're just supposed to know how to do it because they're doctors. So, no matter how good, how sensitive we are, what we have to understand is it's not something that's fun. It's like, you know, you have a broken leg, you go to the emergency room, you might have a good doctor but your broken leg still hurts. And so we recognize that. Having an advocate there that is solely there for the purpose of support, they're not responsible for any sort of outcome.

The forensic examiner's job is to take care of their patient, as well as collect that forensic evidence to provide to law enforcement to support the investigation and potential prosecution.

CONAN: Yeah, because the advocate, yes, there for support. The police officer, whether the patrol officer or from the sex crimes unit, their purpose is not support.

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, you know, I'm 31 years into this and say that I advocate for crime victims and have advocated every day of my career. But when I'm acting as a police officer, I'm not an advocate that's there to provide support no matter what. The only person whose only purpose is to be there to support that victim is the advocate. The nurses are there, as I said to take care of the patient, but to collect the forensic evidence. The law enforcement officer's job is to investigate the crime. They do have an objective, they have a mission. And it doesn't always - it's not always in line with what's in the best interest of the victim.

CONAN: And that could lead to tension further down the road. Is it appropriate for police officers to be skeptical? You would think it is.

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, we actually - that's interesting. We have a campaign that we just launched in April at our international conference in Chicago. It's Start By Believing, and the website is And there is, there are officers who walk into sexual assaults - and other crimes, but I think more so sexual assault - believing that it's the victim's job to prove they were sexually assaulted. I don't believe in that method. I think that you go into an investigation, you start by believing the victim. You do the investigation. You let the investigation, the evidence take you where it does. But so many times victims are made to feel that they have to prove they were sexually assaulted before there's an effective criminal justice response.

CONAN: Well, joining us now is Kristina Korobov, a senior attorney and for the National Center For the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, a division of the National District Attorney's Association. That's a group that trains prosecutors in best practices for trying domestic violence, date violence, sexual violence and stalking cases. And she's with us from the studios of KCUR in Kansas City, our member station there. And nice to have you with us today.

KRISTINA KOROBOV (Attorney): Thank you so much for having me.

CONAN: And after the police officers have done their job, it's turned over to a prosecutor. And what we've heard is that these cases can be notoriously difficult to take to court.

KOROBOV: You're right, they can be. And so that's why it's so important for us as prosecutors to work with law enforcement to make sure that the investigation that the law enforcement does is not only giving us the best picture of the truth of what happened, but also so that we're beginning to answer questions that jurors will potentially have or a judge would potentially have when they're going to evaluate this case to decide whether we've proven our case beyond a reasonable doubt.

CONAN: And what are those questions?

KOROBOV: You name it, a juror wants to know it. Some information highly irrelevant. You know, what was she wearing? Things like that. Other information though they may want to know: what was the relationship between the parties prior to the assault? Where did the victim go after the assault? How much force was used? How did she convey to the attacker that she did not want to engage in sexual activity, because so many of our victims, over two-thirds in fact, know their assailants. Oftentimes jurors come in with this notion that they're going to see a stranger-on-stranger assault, and that more likely than not is not the case. And so there are a lot of questions that they have that in a stranger case would never be presented. But in a non-stranger assault we've also got to address those.

CONAN: And there was also the question then, well, we've talked a lot about collecting forensic evidence; that seems to play a bigger and bigger part in jurors' minds. And I think through no small part of television programs.

KOROBOV: You're absolutely right. When we talk to jurors from the very beginning in jury selection and we ask them how many of them watch shows like "CSI" or "Law & Order" and you just get an overwhelming response of jurors who think that they have an idea about what forensic science can accomplish. And the reality is that oftentimes it can't answer the questions that they really do want to see answered. It can't tell you whether or not a person consented to sex or forced the encounter.

CONAN: And you're presented often, as we said, with that he said, she said situation. How do you then prove to the juror that assumption that Joanne Archambault was telling us about, you should believe the victim?

KOROBOV: Well, it's not a he said, she said case. In fact, if you really think about it, most crime at its core, if you really only look at that from that perspective, would be a he said, she said. But sexual assaults do occur in private most of the time. However, there's a lot of times evidence that leads up to the assault or communications afterwards - something that can prove that the victim is telling the truth about the circumstances of what happened. And that's the type of evidence that we want to present to the jury to show them she's telling you the truth - or a male victim - they're telling you the truth in the little things. So we're asking you to believe them in the big things.

I many never know what went on other than believing the victim, what went on behind closed doors, but you can see that she's been truthful with you up to the point when the door got closed and truthful with you about what happened after the door was opened. And so that's why it is that you should believe her account. If the physical evidence, the corroborating evidence, that it is consistent with what the victim said to be true.

CONAN: We're talking about the investigation and prosecution of rape today. We'd like to hear from those of you who've been involved in such investigations as victims, as investigators and as prosecutors. Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us, We'll start with Pete. And Pete's calling us from upstate New York.

PETE (Caller): Pete. I'm a volunteer EMT. And the one issue that I see constantly is you'll get dispatched for a fall or something similar that when you arrive on scene you suspect more because of the method of injury do not match up with the injuries. And you sort of have like a feel that there's something else wrong, but we can't treat the patient for what we suspect, or suspect. We have to treat the patient as to what they told us happened. Or sometimes the calls will come in for an assault and they'll say, well, I was arguing with my boyfriend and he hit me. And, again, you suspect more happened. And you try to immediately, from the EMT's point of view, is to get the EMT away from the alleged perpetrator, alleged law enforcement, to try to talk to them.

And I'm an older person. I try to talk them from a fatherly point of view. You know, you can tell me what happened. You know, there's no reason for you to, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But a lot of times you suspect more happened than you're being told.

But I know, again, in our area, there are rape crisis centers. They're all located within the hospitals, but they're totally away from the general ER departments. And they have rape kits that are really very nicely done. Their goal is you get as much evidence as possible. And hopefully the victim helps. A lot of times they don't; that they will say it was all my fault.

CONAN: Pete, thanks very much for the call. And you raised a couple of good points. We'll get back to them right after a short break; that principally reminded us there are others besides prosecutors and police officers who are involved in these cases from the official's point of view. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. We're talking about the investigation and prosecution of rape.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. A Centers for Disease Control survey from 2008 found that more than 1 in 10 women and two percent of men experienced forced sex - rape - in a one-year timeframe. Overwhelmingly the perpetrators of those crimes are known to the victims either as lovers, family members or acquaintances. That's just one of the many reasons investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults can be so difficult. Even when victim and perpetrator don't know one another, there may not be evidence. And there are rarely witnesses.

If you've been involved sex assault as a victim, investigator or a prosecutor, tell us your story. 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us: You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests are Joanne Archambault and Kristina Korobov. They've both worked on the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Linda. Linda with us from Auburn Hills in Michigan.

LINDA (Caller): Hi. Yes, I had an experience. This happened several years ago, many years ago, in fact. I was taking a college course and one of the students followed me home. I was quite surprised to see him. And, in any event, there was nobody else home and he attempted to rape me. He did not succeed. I ended up shutting down. I just kind of curled up into a ball and didn't give him the response he wanted. And eventually my family came home, found me, immediately figured out what was going on and called the police. And I was unwilling to give them too much information. I was afraid. I was afraid.

CONAN: Afraid of what?

LINDA: I was afraid of being put on trial and being not believed. I wasn't afraid of, you know, him re-attacking me. I was afraid of the court system. And I didn't want to be put on trial. So what ended up happening, much to my surprise, was the police, you know, they had me come down to the police station. And they were very, very nice. They couldn't have been nicer and they said they knew the individual.

And that individual would be seeing a police officer virtually every day for the next month and he was going to know, under no uncertain terms that the police were going to continue to watch him. They would find reasons to engage him personally on a regular and consistent basis. And that even though he wasn't going to be tried by the court system, they 100 percent believed me.

CONAN: Why not tried by the court system - 'cause you didn't want to press charges?

LINDA: Because I didn't want to go to court. I didn't want to be put on trial. And this happened back in the '70s. And back in the '70s it was just known that the victim was the one who was going on trial. There was no other option.

CONAN: Linda, thank you very much for sharing the story. I know that can't be easy and we're sorry for what happened.

LINDA: But I was delighted with the police. I really was. And I think that women should go forward and even if the courts can't help them, other people can.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call - appreciate it.

LINDA: Thank you.

CONAN: Joanne Archambault, how common is it that women are afraid to go forward for fear of being put on trial?

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, I think that's a really important statement. And that's sort of what the EMT was also talking about, knowing that they're might be something else going on, knowing that a victim that he might be treating isn't necessarily telling everything. It's not just the criminal justice system, though I think that's really important for your callers to hear.

What happens is people are afraid of the community response. And if we really talk about the criminal justice system, we're talking about the society members, community members that are part of that jury system, who are actually the triers of fact. And there's an incredible fear. And unfortunately it's well grounded in that when victims do come forward, friends and family members and even loved ones sometimes will not necessarily believe the victim, especially if the victim was engaging in some sort of high-risk lifestyle. Maybe they were drinking or they were doing drugs or they were where they were told they weren't supposed to be.

And so it starts as soon as a victim discloses, and at least in the case of the caller from Michigan, her family, it sounds like they were very supportive. But unfortunately that isn't always the case. So a lot of times people think that victims are most afraid of the police and the criminal justice system. But actually what we find is they're really afraid of that whole social response and people dividing and taking sides and creating camps.

CONAN: Kristina Korobov, in the '70s, yes, I think it was not unusual for victims to be put on trial themselves in a sense. Is that still the case?

KOROBOV: Sadly, a lot of judges permit it to be the case. Look at the Kobe Bryant trial. And I saw a young woman who was courageous enough to come forward and to give an account of what happened against an incredibly powerful and wealthy person. And an attorney, his attorney just continued to badger this woman with things that I think were later proven to be untrue about her.

But in saying that and in recognizing that that's what victims see in the media, that victims see people go through this when they go through a rape case, I would tell them that is not often the norm. And I would encourage them to give the prosecutor and the police a chance. Because I'm glad that this woman, Linda, had a positive experience with the police and feels that the police really watched her offender. But I think the saddest thing for a victim who doesn't go through the process is to one day learn that her offender chose another victim and another victim.

And then they sit and they think, not only did I, you know, did I not say what happened to me, but is there someone else out there who hurt because I didn't go forward? And there's just so much that we can do these days within the legal system to protect victims from undue harassment. And it requires them to, you know, to really work with us as prosecutors and as law enforcement and victim advocates who are there to help them to give their account truthfully. And there's just a lot we can do for them.

CONAN: Let's get Anita on the line. Anita is with us from Johnson City in Tennessee.

ANITA (Caller): Hi.


ANITA: I have an interesting story. I just want to first start by saying that this can happen to anybody. I graduated from a fairly prestigious university last May. And then I traveled out to Utah to be with my boyfriend, who's actually a wild land firefighter and he's fighting in - he was fighting in Arizona at the time. And I went to a church there just to kind of get to know people, you know? What's a safer place than going to a church?

I met this really nice gentleman. He said that he was an outreach minister and he connected up with me and we became really good friends and he entrusted me and I put a lot of trust in him. A long story short, I ended up being drugged at his house one day, going home to the apartment that I was living in and kind of being in shock for about four days, not telling anybody anything. And I called a 1-800 number. They told me to go to the hospital.

And I went to the hospital and the police came. And, honestly, I don't really remember much else. It took me two weeks to even hear from a victim advocate. And at that point I was kind of unsure if I wanted to press charges. The detective at the station convinced me that it was a good idea. 'Cause just as she had said earlier, you don't know who else they might be victimizing.

I learned that my assailant, the guy who got me, he actually was a repeat sexual offender. I identified him in a picture lineup that they had printed out. And since then I have learned a lot about this guy and all the bad things that he has done to all sorts of people.

I didn't get any forensics information back for six months. At this point I had moved out of the state, here to Tennessee, and nobody contacted me. Nobody. I was, like, nobody would even tell me what was going on. I don't know if a lot of people know about crime victim reparations. But it's this fund that they have in the United States. It's kind of on a state level to help victims kind of get through what they're going through, get counseling, get their moving expenses taken care of.

I had a really hard time going through that. And I didn't receive any funds for six months. I actually only received a phone call from my victim advocate about my prosecution being brought before a D.A. last week. This happened in August of last year. And here I am living my life trying to get over all this stuff, driving to counseling, which I'm actually doing, trying to head over to my counseling appointment. But, you know, victims don't just, you know, and the TV shows portray as these victims getting contacted and knowing what's going on, and that's not been the case for me. I live in this world of, like, unknowing.

I was actually so paranoid and so traumatized by not even knowing what had had happened to me, that I could barely work a really kind of low-profile, like, minimum-wage job with two degrees without being institutionalized to an inpatient program because I just couldn't handle it...

CONAN: Anna, I'm so sorry for what you've gone through. But, Joanne Archambault, is this too often the case? It sounds like there's just been unconscionable delays here.

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, it's pretty complicated, and I'm very sorry that that's been the response. I think that in the last three decades, the area that we have made the most improvement is in victim services. And it's really a surprise to hear that you had such a delay in getting an advocate. That's something that I've seen an incredible amount of progress being made across the country. It might be that there's a community there - the ideal situation, the best practice is, as I've said, the officer would get there. There would be an advocate at the forensic exam facility, and keep in mind that most victims don't report within a period of time where you would get a forensic exam.

And so, I even encourage communities to have a victim advocate, law enforcement bring victim advocacy involved as early as possible, even if there isn't a forensic exam. Most communities don't, unless there is a forensic exam. That's pretty much the standard response. The advocate comes in at the point of that forensic exam, but all victims need advocacy, so that if there is that sort of delay, they understand why. The six months in getting the forensics back is actually not abnormal. Actually, that's pretty quick. I know that's not something she wants to hear, but what is unacceptable is the lack of communication, the delay in the advocate getting involved and delay in any sort of communication with the law enforcement officer, letting them know that the forensic evidence kit.

Although, I think I heard it was four days delayed, so in most communities, they wouldn't even have done a forensic exam. It sounds like one was done. It sounds like it was submitted, so actually all that is very good. What I'm hearing is that there's a lack of communication, and it's probably the number one complaint we get. We need to keep victims informed. What this young lady just described is she's just trying to make it every day, and they need a lot of help with that communication, that's something that the advocates actually help usually a lot with.

The other thing I'm not really clear there, there's a victim comp or a victim advocate out of the prosecutor's office. They help with that process that she was describing to compensate people for loss of wages, moving expenses. That does take some time, because there's a whole review process. But again, it sounds like there just wasn't communication keeping her informed on what the process was, what she might be able to expect. And I think that would have helped her a lot.

CONAN: Anita, thanks very much for the call. We wish you the best of luck with this. I know that's difficult.

ANITA: Thank you. Uh-huh.

CONAN: All right. We're talking about the investigation and prosecution of rape. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And, Kristina Korobov, I just wanted to follow up on that call. If somebody comes in four days, or a week, or two weeks after the event, do juries find that hard to understand?

KOROBOV: A jury may find it difficult to understand at first, but really, four days or two weeks is nothing. When we do jury selection, oftentimes, we're talking to that panel, and we're asking them, the members, how you ever been a victim of a sexual assault? I have people who disclosed to me on that panel, for the first time ever, I was sexually assaulted, and I never told anyone. You're the first person I'm telling. I think the fact that Senator Scott Brown recently disclosed that he had been victimized as a child and was just now telling, years and years later.

I think people are getting better at understanding it, but it is really a prosecutor's responsibility to produce witnesses in court who can explain why it is that victims do delay in disclosing when something happens to them. Often, as a result of trauma, fear and just trying to come to grips with what it is that happened to them.

CONAN: We have this email from Chris in Wilmington, North Carolina. Both your guests and the host used the word victim to refer to the person who's made or might make an allegation of rape. The correct term is alleged victim. The presumption of innocence is an absolute principle, and using the word victim chips away at the central pillar of our criminal justice system. Given that the Duke lacrosse case is barely five years behind us, there's no excuse in failing to acknowledge that some rape allegations are false. And, Joanne Archambault, how do you square that? And he's right. The presumption of innocence is important. How do you square that with the instinct to - not the instinct. You say it's the best practice to believe the victim.

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, I say start by believing. And as a law enforcement officer, you're going to listen to what the victim is saying and do the investigation. The investigation, the evidence, the statements will take you where it does. I wanted to say this. This "alleged" issue, the media uses that a lot, and I get that. In law enforcement, we don't say alleged burglary. We don't say we responded to an alleged robbery. If you're a doctor and you have a patient that comes in with a complaint of abdominal pain, you don't say alleged abdominal pain.

This is a victim. This is a victim's statement. And I just want to be really clear that that is not a term we use in law enforcement, nor will you see it used in any other sort of crime. A victim is making a statement, a witness is making a statement, and then you let the investigation and the facts lead you where they will take you.

CONAN: Let's go next to Larry. Larry with us from Charlotte.

LARRY (Caller): Yes. In fact, I just want to echo the excellent email you just read. I'm concerned that I've, you know, heard this now for 15 or 20 minutes and not one word of the presumption of innocence until now. And even more disturbing is the thought that we're hearing from people central to this process that the victim doesn't have to prove she's been a victim. Well, in fact, she does. It's called the burden of proof. And as terrible as it is, I have girls and I have a wife, I think I understand how terrible that would be. But to...

CONAN: And we're just running short in time in this segment. I wanted to get a response from Kristina Korobov.

KOROBOV: Yeah. The notion of this presumption of innocence, it is a process that applies to the courtroom. That's where you have the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence. And the burden of proof does not rest with the victim. It rests with the state. It is my responsibility as the prosecutor to prove that case to a jury, not a victim's responsibility to make that proof. I'm the one charged with that responsibility, working in tandem with the police department, with people who've collected evidence to present that full picture to the jury, not the victim's responsibility. And this notion of...

LARRY: The (unintelligible)...complaining witness...

KOROBOV: ...the presumption of innocence is absolutely key, and yet, it has to apply to the system. It doesn't mean that we have to treat a victim disrespectfully.

CONAN: And, Larry, quickly. Larry, I'm sorry. You were trying to get in?

LARRY: I'm sorry. Excuse me. I was just asking, do you consider the credibility of the complaining witness a relevant avenue of inquiry?

KOROBOV: Absolutely I consider the credibility of a complaining witness to be important, and that's something that we look at when we look in the entirety of the circumstances.

CONAN: Larry, thanks very much for the call. We're going to continue this conversation after a short break. So stay with us. And we'd like to hear from you. 800-989-8255. Email, We'll also go to Arizona to catch up on news of the Wallow fire now burning in New Mexico as well. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: Right now, let's continue our conversation on the investigation and prosecution of rape. Our guests are Joanne Archambault, executive director of End Violence Against Women International, a nonprofit that teaches best practices for investigating sexual assault and domestic violence. She formerly was a sergeant in the San Diego Police Department where she supervised the sex crimes unit. And Kristina Korobov, a senior attorney for the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, a division of the National District Attorneys Association. They train prosecutors in best practices for trying domestic violence, date violence, sexual assault and - and stalking cases.

And let's see if we get another caller on the line. Let's go to Asha(ph). Asha with us from Piscataway in New Jersey.

ASHA (Caller): Hi. Good afternoon. How are you?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

ASHA: I just wanted to weigh in a little bit on this conversation. I was a prosecutor in New York City for almost 12 years, and I'm currently a prosecutor in New Jersey right now. And the majority of my career in New York was spent prosecuting sexual assault and domestic violence cases. And I just, you know, I just wanted to weigh in on this conversation in a few respects. In terms of forensic exams, I tried many, many cases where there was no forensic evidence. And those, I think, are the toughest cases; as well as the cases where there - the parties are non-strangers to one another, commonly called acquaintance or date rape cases.

And I think that one of the keys to trying these kinds of cases, whether there's forensic evidence or not forensic evidence, is really making the complaining witness a witness that juries can relate to. And Ms. Korobov talked about talking to juries and empanelling juries that you really sort of vet the issues with. You know, it's very important to try to get juries to be able to relate to your complaining witness, and one of the ways that prosecutors - one of the ways that I used to do that is by having - humanizing the complainant, you know, not just talking about what happened but also the details of what happened. You know, just like when we see a movie that has these sort of familiar scenes where we - that prick our soul, that touch us.

I think that complainants, also, they need to talk about the details surrounding events, the criminal events in a way that really translates to juries as a real event, and I think that's so important. So I just wanted to contribute that to this conversation.

CONAN: Well, Kristina Korobov?

KOROBOV: Yes, she's absolutely right, and it's not a matter of, you know, conditioning a jury. It's just, I want a jury who can be able to be fair, who can listen to the evidence and who doesn't come in with preconceived notions, one way or the other, about what someone is or someone isn't. Or that a rape victim must look a certain way, or that if a defendant does look or look a certain way that must mean that he's guilty of the crime. You know, we are very concerned about protecting defendants' rights as well, and we just want to make sure that jurors aren't making decisions about a case based on anything but the evidence in the case.

And certainly, humanizing the complaining witness or the victim in the case, that's a big part of getting them to just be able to look at the facts and make a decision based on the facts, and not something that they thought before they came to court.

CONAN: Does not that put a lot of burden on the victim to be a good performer, as well as simply telling the truth?

KOROBOV: I never want a victim to perform. I want them to tell the truth, and that's it. That's all the prosecutor can expect. So I don't know how it would be performing, to come into court and to explain what it is that happened to you...

CONAN: Well, some people are more articulate than others. Some people...

KOROBOV: Absolutely.

CONAN: themselves more clearly.

KOROBOV: You're absolutely right, and part of that is getting the jury to explain to you, in jury selection, that when you're nervous, it's hard to talk about these things. When you're talking about something like sexual contact, that's an incredibly difficult thing to say. I get jurors who are nervous, and I want to help them to understand that just like they're nervous, having to answer personal questions, well, how do you think the victim feels? So it's important, yes, to get them to explain to you that. But it's not about performing when you're a victim. It's about conveying and it's about working with your prosecutor and your investigators to understand how to do that.

CONAN: Asha, thanks very much for the phone call.

ASHA: You're welcome.

CONAN: I wanted to read these emails. This is from Elizabeth(ph). As a survivor of rape and trained nurse, I have to say the attitude that some cops take is damaging. Victims are in shock and very impressionable. That negative attitude stays with you as a condemnation of you, the victim. This should not be tolerated. I understand neutrality, but sometimes it goes to cynicism and open hostility. Police needs more training as do hospital personnel. Our internalized attitudes towards rape are often distorted. Everyone who works with survivors needs to make a choice to be part of the healing, not another part of the trauma.

And this is from someone who signs themselves Officer McNabb(ph). In the vast majority of these cases I've responded to as a patrol officer, more often than not there is admitted voluntary drug use by all parties. This can complicate the task of unraveling exactly what happened because no one knows for sure. The other high-risk behaviors can often make it difficult to find the actual truth, not shades of the same. The idea of believing the victim from the outset and forcing the suspect to prove innocence is difficult because it is at odds with the judicial idea of until proven guilty.

Sadly, I've seen rape allegations used as weapons far too often as well. These things complicate law enforcement's task of getting to the bottom of a report. But we, as officers, will keep striving to be the safe place victims can turn and seek justice in those cases where a crime was committed.

And, Joanne Archambault, I wanted to get your take on that earlier caller and earlier email and this one, too, about that presumption of innocence.

ARCHAMBAULT: Well, you know, this is actually pretty frustrating. I want to go back to Larry, when he said that it's the victim's job to prove the sexual assault. That's not true. Victims are not police officers. They're not investigators. They're not criminalists. All the victim can do is give their statements, say what they believe happened.

It's my job. It's why I went through, you know, decades of training, that's why I spent, you know, so many hours training investigators. As this officer, I think in his email said, these are very difficult cases, the non-stranger dynamics, the fact that oftentimes people are engaging in substance abuse, that's a tremendous problem. They make these investigations more complicated.

But it takes a lot of training both on the part of the law enforcement officers as well as the prosecutors, because in an investigation, I talk to the witnesses. I look for the evidence, not what the public thinks as evidence, like the smoking gun or the forensic evidence, which is simply going to show that there was sexual contact but not necessarily prove that it was nonconsensual, that it was forcible, but looking at that cooperation as to who is telling the truth. So that's where the presumption of innocence comes in. But you have to do the investigation to start. And I like I said, numerous times, an investigation will take you where it takes you, and I don't have any problem with that.

I do want to just comment also on the nurse's comment. Law enforcement, does, we continue to have to work hard. A lot of times, we send our police officers to interview and interrogation schools. And what happens is they're not really sent to victim interviewing schools and they end up using interrogation tactics. So a lot of times with victims, especially if the victim is telling you something that isn't making sense to them, so that's a lot of my time and effort is put into understanding all the things that so many of these people have talked about on this call, the shame, the embarrassment, the fear, not wanting everybody to know, not wanting to go - feel like they're being put on trial.

The officers have to understand that to establish that rapport so this person feels safe to talk to us. But it's not just about the victim. And I hope that people understand that it's not a victim's job to do an investigation and prove whether or not a crime occurred. We don't expect a teller at a bank robbery to prove that there was a robbery or any other crime.

CONAN: Joanne...

ARCHAMBAULT: You know, they report to law enforcement. Law enforcement does their investigation. We do the best job we can. We present that to the prosecutor and the prosecutor does the best job they can.

CONAN: Joanne Archambault, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate it. Joanne Archambault is executive director of End Violence Against Women International. We'd also like to thank Kristina Korobov, senior attorney for the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. She joined us from KCUR, our member station in Kansas City. Appreciate your time today.

KOROBOV: Thank you.

CONAN: We'll get to the Wallow fire in just a moment.

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