U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Guiding and Supporting a Victim’s Choice to Participate in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2022
7 pages

This “brief” reviews strategies that can assist advocates for victims of sexual assault in guiding and supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process.



Victims may experience the criminal justice components essential to a meticulous and fair prosecution as difficult and distressing, since they include interviews, evidence collection, public court proceedings, and cross-examination at trial. This may cause some survivors to decline participation in the legal process, avoid service of process, or refuse to appear under subpoena. Advocacy for sexual assault survivors can come from a variety of sources, each with distinct benefits and limitations. Legal advocates can provide information on legal proceedings in which the survivor may be involved and survivor legal rights. Systems-based advocates work for police departments or prosecutor’s offices. They assist survivors in navigating the investigation and prosecution of their cases. Community-based advocates are employed external to the criminal legal system and often work for rape crisis centers or other nonprofit organizations. These advocates support survivors by objectively assessing their needs and obtaining or organizing resources that address specific needs. A coordinated community response (CCR) to sexual violence enables all participating multidisciplinary professionals to work together to provide a victim-centered, trauma-informed response. This approach enables advocates and other allied processionals to cooperate in addressing multiple survivor needs and establish cross-training for effective ways of meeting various sexual assault survivor needs. Sections of this brief highlight the stages of the criminal justice process and the related considerations for survivors and advocates. In a concluding statement, the brief advises that through close collaborative relationships, all criminal justice professionals can ensure that the victim’s decision to participate in the criminal justice system is fully informed.

Date Published: April 1, 2022