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Sexual assault victim evidence

Inevitably, in sexual assault cases, the victim will testify as to the assault provided that the victim is able to testify. There are some instances when the victim is comatose, or in a permanent vegetative state or is developmentally or intellectually disabled that he or she cannot possibly testify as to what happened to him or her.

When the victim of the sexual assault does testify, her credibility as a witness can be tested through cross-examination. This means that after the victim testifies, the lawyer for the accused is given the chance to ask the victim questions to see if her testimony is accurate, credible and reliable. The victim’s ability to recall facts such as the date, the time, what he or she was wearing, where she had come from or where she was going or where the sexual assault took place are facts which are important. The truth of these facts can be ascertained from the witness herself or himself.

There is also the duty of the lawyer for the accused to ascertain whether the complaining victim not only has a good recall of the specifics of the sexual assault but also whether the victim has the capacity for truth telling. In this regard, if the victim has filed other numerous complaints for sexual assault against other persons in the past, this can put in question her propensity and speed for accusing other persons of assault.

The complaining victim’s biases and prejudices and his or her views on sexuality and gender roles may also be examined during the trial to establish her credibility as a witness. If there is proof that the complaining victim has a clinically diagnosed fear or aversion or hatred of men, then this may cast doubt on her credibility to give an accurate version of the events that is not tainted with prejudice or even malice.

Prior experiences of testifying in court, prior arrests, indictments and convictions for fraud or dishonesty may also be entered as evidence that assails the credibility of the victim as a witness. Note that this evidence will not be and cannot be raised to question the existence of consent but merely to raise doubt as to the credibility of the victim as a reliable and truthful witness.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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