This paper argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized video conferencing within the legal system such that survivors ought to be able to routinely testify outside of the court environment. Though there have always been high rates of sexualized violence, the onset of the pandemic has led to increased rates of sexualized violence, which could lead to greater numbers of trials prosecuting perpetrators. However, only a small amount of complainants turn to the court as a form of justice. This is likely due to the inhumane conditions inflicted on complainants during the trial process. The pandemic has revealed that the court has the capacity to operate differently, with one opportunity being video conferencing, which allows complainants to testify from a location outside of the court environment.
Courts now frequently use video conferencing to conduct trials, which could be leveraged to create a more trauma-informed process for survivors. Prior to the pandemic, the implementation of this proposal would have required a large shift in perceptions and practices. Now, it is an incremental and logical step in the interest of survivors. It will be demonstrated that virtual testimony from a safe place lessens trauma to survivors and furthers the aims of the criminal justice system to produce full and candid testimony. This proposal intends to positively impact one area of sexual assault law, using tools that already exist within the courts’ means.
Leah Roberston, "The Disruption of COVID-19: How a Virtual World Creates Opportunity for Improvement in the Criminal Justice System’s Treatment of Complainants of Sexual Violence" (2021) Directed Research Project: Law in a Post-Pandemic World.