Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


4,670 Persons Urge Congress to Remove Guilt-Presuming, ‘Victim-Centered’ Provisions from VAWA Bill

WASHINGTON / April 26, 2021 – An online petition signed by 4,670 persons is calling for an end to so-called “victim-centered” investigations, which remove the presumption of innocence and lead to wrongful convictions. “Victim-centered” and “trauma-informed” approaches are promoted in H.R. 1620, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, in Sections 101, 206, and 303 (1).

The VAWA bill was recently passed by the House of Representatives, and now is being considered for introduction in the Senate.

The petition highlights the case of Matt Rolph, former student at Hobart College in New York state, who was accused of sexually assaulting his long-term girlfriend. His case went to trial, where a jury found him innocent of all charges.

Then the college hired an investigator who used “victim-centered” and “Start By Believing” methods, resulting in a decision to expel the student. Rolph later described the expulsion as “One of the worst days of my life.” Rolph filed a lawsuit against the College. The court ruled in favor of Rolph’s claims of investigative bias (2).

The VAWA bill defines “victim-centered” as asking questions “in a manner that is focused on the experience of the reported victim.” This description is an admission of the one-sided nature of such investigations, because it says nothing about focusing on the experiences of the defendant, or even on the objective facts of the case.

Police ethics codes require investigations to be impartial and honest (3). Guilt-presuming “victim-centered” and “trauma-informed” methods contradict these codes, and represent a form of investigative misconduct. A recent report found that investigative misconduct by police accounts for 35% of all wrongful convictions (4).

Black male defendants are often targeted by such “victim-centered” methods. A recent article, “Victim-Centered Justice Throws Black Men Under the Bus,” reported that 73.6% of wrongful convictions involved Blacks who were targeted by investigative misconduct (5).

The petition continues to accept new co-signers: