The Special Victims Unit (SVU) is responsible for all cases involving the physical abuse of children, and the sexual assault of both children and adults referred to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation and prosecution. The unit does not discriminate against any victim because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, ancestry, or mental or physical handicap.
- To promote the effective investigation and successful prosecution of child physical abuse cases, and child and adult sexual assault cases.
- To provide victims and their families with guidance and support throughout the investigation and prosecution of their cases.
- To educate the community about the prevention and prosecution of child abuse and sexual assault crimes.
The unit is located in the Child Advocacy Center on Lamberton Road, which is a safe, comfortable place, apart from the courthouse, where children who have been sexually or physically abused can be interviewed in a child-friendly atmosphere. A safe, comfortable area for adult sexual assault victims is provided in the center as well.
The SVU is comprised of assistant prosecutors, detectives, a sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator, a multi-disciplinary team coordinator, victim witness advocates and support staff.
Detectives in the SVU conduct investigations on cases referred by local police departments or social agencies, as well as initiate their own investigations. Assistant prosecutors assigned to the unit screen, indict and prosecute all referred and original investigations.
The detectives work jointly with the municipal police departments and the state Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in investigations. Follow-up investigations may include taking statements from witnesses, compiling physical and photographic lineups, and the collection of additional physical evidence of the crime.
Interviews are conducted by law enforcement officers specially trained to interview children and adult victims of sexual assault. All interviews of sexual and physical abuse victims under the age of 12 are video recorded, eliminating the need for repeated interviews by other agencies involved in the case. Such investigations are joint efforts between the prosecutor’s office, the municipal police departments and DYFS. Often, the child and the non-offending parent or guardian is referred to crisis intervention, medical services, mental health services and victim advocacy.
A victim’s distress may create an unwillingness or psychological inability to assist in the investigation. Officers, detectives and prosecutors play a significant role in both the victim’s willingness to cooperate in the investigation, and the ability to cope with the emotional and psychological after-effects of the crime.
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