Testimony Toolkit

The following guidance is applicable whenever a clinician is preparing for testimony, be it for criminal, civil, or administrative trials, depositions, or proceedings in federal, military, state, and/or tribal courts. Clinicians should consult with the attorney for whom they are testifying about material differences among the aforementioned proceedings.

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Testimony Preparation

Clinicians are most often called to testify by prosecutors in criminal cases. Therefore, for ease of reference, this guidance will most often refer to prosecutor as the attorney calling the clinician to testify. Clinicians should nonetheless be aware that other types of attorneys can subpoena them to testify. For consistency, this guidance will also refer to the clinician’s patient as the “victim” or “victim-patient.” During testimony, clinicians will typically refer to the victim as “the patient,” by their name, by their Initials, or a by a pseudonym, as the court allows.

As medical professionals, clinicians are neutral and impartial witnesses. Therefore, as a general matter, clinicians should not post anything on social media that could call their neutrality or objectivity into question. This Includes posting about their duties, upcoming or past testimony, or thoughts/observations about the proceedings in which they were, are, or may be involved.

Professionalism and diligent preparation with the attorney calling the clinician to testify are essential.


Clinicians will likely testify about the process of the exam, observations of the victim and statements by the victim, as well as photographs, evidence collection of swabs, and chain of custody of the collected evidence.

Prosecutors are not permitted to ask the clinician about (1) whether a sexual assault occurred, or (2) whether the clinician thought the victim was credible. Those determinations are left to the jury. However, clinicians, who are qualified as experts, may be asked e.g., if certain injuries are consistent with penetration and/or sexual assault, whether the clinician would anticipate physical injury based upon the history provided by the patient, or if certain behaviors are consistent with trauma.

Because clinicians are often permitted to testify to their opinions based on their expertise, it is all the more important for clinicians to meet with prosecutors in advance of their testimony to discuss those opinions.

This project was supported by Grant No.15JOVW-21-GK-02194-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.