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Identifying, Investigating, and Prosecuting Witness Intimidation in Cases of Sexual Abuse in Confinement  

Author:  Viktoria Kristiansson, J.D..; Charlene Whitman-Barr, J.D..

Source: Volume 25, Number 01, Winter 2024 , pp.1-9(9)

Sex Offender Law Report

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Witness intimidation can take many forms. Common forms of intimidation include acts of physical violence, verbal and nonverbal communication of threats, threats implied by conduct, and emotional manipulation. It may be direct or indirect. Regardless of the setting in which it occurs, witness intimidation is a chronic problem with devastating implications for victims and for the prosecution of crimes. Intimidation associated with sexual abuse decreases victim and community safety, contributes to lower levels of crime reporting, and hinders investigations and prosecutions of cases. Intimidation compounds the already significant barriers victims face, leading them—and their cases—to continue to fall through the cracks. Victims of sexual abuse in confinement are especially vulnerable to intimidation because they typically have fewer opportunities to escape from (or even avoid) their abusers. This article details the steps necessary for effective response to intimidation: 1. understanding the prevalence of sexual abuse in confinement and the forms of intimidation commonly encountered in this context; 2. recognizing the barriers to reporting abuse and intimidation; and 3. implementing effective justice system responses to intimidation. This article is from the Aequitas series Strategies in Brief. It was written under Grant No. 2010-RP-BX-K001 awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and is being made available to readers at no charge under a grant from DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women.

Keywords: Sexual Abuse in Confinement; Inmate-Abusers and Staff-Abusers; PREA Standards

Affiliations:  1: AEquitas; 2: AEquitas.

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