Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


Federal Lawmakers, Legal Experts, and Citizens Join Forces to Denounce ‘Victim-Centered’ Methods

WASHINGTON / June 18, 2019 – Four members of the House of Representatives have just released a letter criticizing the use of “victim-centered” investigations, and calling on Attorney General William Barr to “defund these methods that go contrary to our accepted legal system.” (1) The letter was signed by Representatives Paul Gosar of Arizona, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, and Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock of California. [UPDATE: On June 28, these  Representatives also signed the letter: Jeff Duncan – South Carolina, Steve King – Iowa, Ted Yoho – Florida, Brian Babin – Texas, Jody Hice – Georgia, Andy Biggs – Arizona, and Louie Gohmert – Texas]

Separately, over 2,700 persons have endorsed an online petition instructing Attorney General William Barr to terminate the Department of Justice’s support for victim-centered methods. Titled, “Stop Sham ‘Start By Believing’ Investigations,” the petition highlights the case of Matt Rolph, who was wrongfully expelled from Hobart College in New York following a bungled investigation (2).

Last month, a group of legal experts, scholars, and others released another petition titled, “DOJ is Aggressively Promoting ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations that Presume Guilt and Lead to Wrongful Convictions.” The petition demands that the Department of Justice “promptly suspend its support for programs that call on detectives and investigators to reject their most basic of principles of fairness and that threaten to unravel the very fabric of our nation’s justice system.” (3) This petition is still accepting co-signers. Persons who wish to be listed should email their name, affiliation (optional), city, and state to:

These three converging documents reveal a growing wave of concern among Americans regarding the integrity, honesty, and reliability of the nation’s criminal justice system.

“Victim centered” methods tell investigators to start with a presumption of guilt, seek to “corroborate the victim’s account,” and write their reports using the “language of non-consensual sex.” (4) Such approaches violate ethical codes that require investigators to “present such evidence impartially and without malice.” (5) As a result, victim-centered methods vitiate impartial investigations, worsen the nagging problem of wrongful convictions, and undermine the credibility of actual crime victims.

The Arizona Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women issued a letter in 2015 stating that victim-centered Start by Believing methods create the possibility of “real or perceived confirmation bias” and “strongly cautioned” state law enforcement agencies from using Start By Believing (6).