Evidentiary issues unique to intimate partner sexual abuse charges arise due to historical bias and the complex relationship between the defendant and victim. What aspects are relevant to the legal matter under consideration? Are prior consensual sexual relations relevant on the issue of consent? Are prior acts of violence admissible? Should an expert be allowed to testify to educate the trier of fact as to how to assess the victim’s counterintuitive behaviors such as continuing to cohabit with the defendant despite the allegations of sexual violence before the court?
These and related evidentiary issues are considered in this section. While rules vary among jurisdictions, this overview will identify issues, frame the differing policy choices presented, and discuss case law from courts that have considered the issues in depth.
The issues discussed in this module are:
- Rape shield laws—relevance of the victim’s sexual history, particularly with the defendant;
- Prior bad acts—admissibility of the defendant’s prior acts of sexual or physical violence;
- Expert testimony to explain the often counterintuitive behaviors of victims of intimate partner sexual abuse and battering.
Other relevant evidentiary issues are discussed in Module X Marital Privilege and Confidentiality of Victim Records.