In fieldwork practicum courses, students participate in weekly seminars and conduct related fieldwork at outside organizations. This practicum course will provide students with the experience, knowledge, and analytical skills to identify and apply the criminal laws, evidentiary and procedural rules, and case law relevant to the prosecution of sex crimes. Students will participate in a two hour/week seminar and also undertake 10 hours/week of fieldwork at AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.
SEMINAR: In the two-credit, graded, seminar portion of the practicum, students will learn about the prosecution of sex crimes. Rape and sexual assault laws are complex and evolving. The crime of rape originated as a crime against property – not against a person. While these laws have evolved, they still retain vestiges of their archaic origins, resulting in inconsistency and variability in sex crime terminology and elements from state to state, as well as other anomalies. This course is designed to inform students’ evaluation, preparation, and litigation through a course-long review of a complex sexual assault case file. It will also address the prevalence and perpetration of sexual violence in the United States and will explore the commonalities and differences in the barriers to effectively responding to these cases in the United States and abroad. This practicum course will provide students with the experience, knowledge, and analytical skills to identify and apply the criminal laws, evidentiary and procedural rules, and case law relevant to the prosecution of sex crimes. Students will be exposed to research related to victim behavior, sexual violence perpetration, medical and health issues, and forensics in sexual violence cases in their seminar readings, discussion, and fieldwork. Students will be provided with opportunities to apply the relevant research, court rules, and case law to the course case file. The students’ fieldwork will be complemented weekly by a review of relevant case law and literature, class discussion, lectures by the lead faculty member and guest lecturers, and mock pre-trial and trial exercises. Students will develop an understanding not only of the applicable laws but also of common challenges that arise when investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Topics such as alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, violence against sexually exploited women, commonly co-occurring crimes, prosecutorial decision-making, marital rape, issues of force and consent, and more will be studied.
FIELDWORK: In the two-credit, mandatory pass-fail, fieldwork portion of the practicum, students will undertake 10 hours of fieldwork/week at AEquitas, where each student will be supervised by an Attorney Advisor. Students will be expected to assist AEquitas Attorney Advisors with daily tasks of providing technical assistance to prosecutors and allied professionals and to prepare for trainings. Technical assistance requests span the continuum and include but are not limited to: information on experts, legal research (statutory and case law based), policy guidance, and more.
Students will also work in pairs to complete a semester-long project related to AEquitas’s work, focusing on sexual assault prosecution and advocacy. Projects may include:
- Utilizing technology to enhance the prosecution of these cases, such as developing a public service campaign to raise awareness of issues related to prosecution and sexual assault and/or creating short podcasts on relevant topics that feature AEquitas Attorney Advisors and other justice system experts, etc.
- Developing sample briefs
- Analyzing relevant laws
- Peer review of colleagues’ work
The fieldwork portion of this class will also include a writing competition where students will be challenged to choose a topic related to their fieldwork, coursework, and relevant research. One student’s work will be selected for publication in co-authorship with an Attorney Advisor.
- Effectively prosecute sexual violence cases using an offender-focused and victim-centered approach.
- Exercise research-informed discretion to evaluate, litigate, and dispose of cases in a manner that focuses on:
- Identifying a just disposition;
- Determining the proper path to achieving that disposition under the laws of a particular jurisdiction and leading social science research; and
- Considering the impact of decisions on victim safety and well-being.
- Utilize rules of evidence and other legal tools to hold offenders accountable for the full range of their conduct.
- Assume a leadership role and improve the quality of justice in sexual violence cases by refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability.