A Balancing Act: Providing the Proper Balance Between a Child Sexual Abuse Victim’s Rights and the Right to Personal Cross-Examination in Arizona

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Tyler Carlton. A victim of child sexual abuse takes the stand, and the abuse begins againthis time with the sanction of law. In some cases, abusers exercise the right of self-representation to personally cross-examine their victim. One fifteen-year-old victim of sexual abuse stated: “It made it harder. He would give me that look and question me and dig into me . . . . It makes you feel like you’re the victim again. It hurt a lot.” Many victims share this feeling of distress in response to a defendant’s decision to personally cross-examine them. In fact, the issue has even reached popular culture. In the acclaimed crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, when an adult victim of sexual assault learns of the defendant’s plan to personally cross-examine her, she replies: “First he rapes me, then he gets to interrogate me in front of everybody.” In the real world, a twenty-one-year-old woman, who was sexually abused as a toddler, attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the courthouse roof when the defendant sought to personally cross-examine her.

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