sexual assault, trauma


Sexual assault triggers a cascade of physiological responses in victims, commonly referred to as the neurobiology of sexual assault trauma. Victims often report the inability to move or resist, memory loss, and loss of our altered feelings of consciousness – reactions which often negatively impact the perception of their credibility. Recently, the criminal justice system has begun to connect these normal, physiological responses in understanding common victim behaviors and responses. As knowledge of the neurobiology of sexual assault trauma disseminates throughout the criminal justice system, it is readily apparent that education, new protocols, and trauma informed interview techniques are required. This article highlights the work of the Utah Prosecution Council and the West Valley City Police Department in making these improvements. Results from a pilot study measuring the impact of their work are described. Implications for practice and future recommendations are shared to encourage continued improvements in criminal justice system response in adolescent and adult sexual assault cases.

Original Publication Citation

Kelly, D., & Valentine, J. L. (2018). The Science of Neurobiology of Sexual Assault Trauma and the Utah Legal System. Utah Journal of Criminal Law, 3(1), 70-86.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Utah Journal of Criminal Law





University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

Included in

Nursing Commons