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Crimes of family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and elder abuse hurt the most vulnerable in our communities. In prosecuting these complex, emotionally charged cases, we fight relentlessly for victim justice and abuser accountability. 

The Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit also prosecutes cases involving: intimate-partner violence; physical abuse; child neglect, pornography and exploitation; elder abuse and neglect; human trafficking; and failure to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. 

These kinds of cases are difficult to prosecute, since many of these crimes take place behind closed doors, out of sight of witnesses. Victims can also be conflicted about coming forward, some even blaming themselves, while others are pressured to remain silent. 

Throughout the criminal justice process, our attorneys and Victim & Witness Services Coordinators make a concerted effort to connect victims with community resources to support their trauma healing and mitigate against any further trauma.

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“The District Attorney’s Office works tirelessly with our partners in law enforcement and the advocacy community to ensure Philadelphians are safe from sexual assault, abuse and rape.”

LARRY KRASNER
District Attorney
City of Philadelphia

FAMILY VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT: HOW IT WORKS

We approach the most sensitive cases with compassion and empathy. 

A majority of child sexual and physical abuse cases come to the attention of law enforcement through the City’s Department of Human Services or a 911 call. Detectives in the Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit conduct the initial investigation, then contact the District Attorney’s Office to make a charging decision.

Prosecutors assigned to the District Attorney´s Municipal Court Unit handle preliminary hearings on the majority of domestic violence cases before they are transferred to the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit for trial. In cases involving adult rape and human trafficking, prosecutors in our unit oversee the case from start to finish.

Child victims of sexual abuse receive special care at the North Philadelphia-based Philadelphia Safety Collaborative. Children receive a compassionate, streamlined medical evaluation, as well as legal and social services, by professional staff trained in trauma care. 

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DATA LAB: MEASURING JUSTICE

The Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit handles 2,000 cases every year.  

Our unit prosecutors do everything in their power to expedite cases, particularly those involving young children, to avoid drawn-out case dismissals and drastically limit the potential for any trauma on victims as a result of court proceedings.

 

 

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“What is significantly different about the approach we take in this unit is how much and how often we stay in touch with victims throughout the entire process.”

BRANWEN MCNABB
Supervisor
Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit

FAMILY VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT: OUR APPROACH

We allocate resources to provide victims the individualized attention they deserve. 

The Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit comprises a compassionate group of trial attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and Victim/Witness Services coordinators.  

Our attorneys  receive specialized trauma training in handling emotionally –charged and complex cases including those involving family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and elder abuse . We also work closely with a citywide network of partner organizations to connect victims to services that support their healing. 

FAMILY VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT: IMPORTANT TERMS

Human trafficking involves exploiting men, women or children by force, fraud or coercion, for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Tragically, both adults and children can be victims of human trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. In cases that involve children, however, there’s no need to prove the use of force because children cannot consent to sexual activity.

Human smuggling involves the provision of a service (like transportation or fraudulent documentation) to individuals voluntarily seeking entry into a foreign country. While trafficking is exploitation-based, smuggling is transportation-based. Our office does not handle human smuggling cases.

Alternative forms of prosecution. Non-carceral approaches may better achieve justice in some cases, such as those involving lower-level offense or firsttime offenders involving family members. Our unit uses alternative paths of prosecution that hold offenders accountable while offering rehabilitation, in consultation with victims. Diversion programs include the Domestic Violence Diversion Program, Mental Health Treatment Court, Drug Treatment Court, Intermediate Punishment, and Alternative Rehabilitation Disposition.

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UNIT TEAM LEADERSHIP

Supervisors:
Branwen McNabb
[email protected]
Cheryl Yankolonis
[email protected]