Does Testifying In Court Re-Traumatize The Victim?

Here we go again that old thinking is showing up again, “testifying re-traumatizes victims”. This time it’s in the Jerry Sandusky Penn State child molestation case. Usually, that phrase is spoken from the mouth of a defense attorney trying to get a sweet plea deal, but this time it’s apparently coming from the mouth of a victim’s lawyer. Oh dear.

As reported today in, in response to Sandusky waiving the preliminary hearing, Michael Boni, a lawyer for one of the accusers, said, “The accusers do not have to relive the horrors they experience up on the witness stand by having to testify at the hearing and at trial.”


Does he not realize how powerful and healing it is for a victim to finally be heard, to be able to tell and to confront their molester.

In my experience as a former child abuse prosecutor, victims don’t regret testifying, they regret not testifying. They regret not coming forward. And, at times, they may be upset with the verdict. But, they don’t regret standing up for themselves, taking their power back and telling the “secret”.

Yes, it takes tremendous courage to come forward and tell. And, yes it’s stressful. Just ask the Herman Cain accusers. It takes guts to come forward and risk being vilified, to endure media scrutiny of every aspect of your life especially in high-profile cases, and, to re-live the horrible event. And, facing a cross-examination is intimidating, uncomfortable and at times brutal. So whether the defense tries to portray a victim as a nut, a slu*, a liar or a gold-digger or versions thereof, pay no attention. Nothing is ever as brutal as the event the victim has already endured.

But, at some point, I find, victims need to tell or they can’t live with themselves. And in some cases, they can’t move forward with their lives until they do tell. So whether it’s in a courtroom or to a therapist or to a loving friend, telling or testifying is healing for the victim and the victim’s family.

There is a reason, “the truth shall make you free”, is an enduring truth.

Simply my opinion, what say you?


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