POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Linda Fairstein headed the New York County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for more than two decades, introducing important new technologies into the prosecutorial process such as DNA evidence. Since leaving the DA’s office in 2002 the Vassar alumna has published a series of best-selling and award-winning mystery novels that rely on her experience as a sex crimes investigator and prosecutor. Fairstein will reflect on her past and ongoing work in the talk “Life From Literature to Law” on Thursday, April 4, at 5:00pm in Taylor Hall room 203. This event is free and open to the public, sponsored by Vassar’s Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Program (SAVP), Office of the President, Office of the Dean of the College, Women’s Studies Program, and program in Science, Technology, and Society
Most recently Fairstein was active in successfully urging Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, a bill that expanded from established law to extend protections to LGBT and Native American people, and she attended the White House ceremony when President Obama signed the bill into law.
Fairstein was also recently named head of Kroll’s Sexual Misconduct Consulting Group, a multi-disciplinary team that will provide expert services to assist colleges, universities, and secondary schools in preventing and responding to sexual abuse. While at Vassar she will meet with students and employees about issues related to sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking.
After Fairstein graduated from Vassar in 1969 as an English major, criminal law emerged as a new special interest over her next three years at the University of Virginia Law School.
“There were no special victims units [for sexual assault cases] in any police department or prosecutor’s office in America in 1972, when I graduated, until the Manhattan DA’s office set the first one up in ’74,” Fairstein explained in a 2010 Vassar interview. “So I started working on those cases before there was a specialized unit, and because I was the only woman among a dozen lawyers, the DA figured I would be more empathetic to victims. That was the classic response in those days, ‘We have a woman prosecutor, and these are women’s issues, so let’s get her to do these cases.’ But these issues fascinated me, and it was a point in time when laws were beginning to change for the better, so my colleagues drafted new laws and we lobbied for legislative reform. What we did was pioneer innovative ways to get these cases into court and to treat victims better, to try to give them victories at trial, which had never been possible in the American criminal justice system.”
In the late 1980s Fairstein was asked to write a non-fiction book about sex crimes and her eventual title Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape (1993) was named a New York Times Notable Book. Encouraged soon after to try out fiction, she began work on her first novel Final Jeopardy (2003) and published it a year after her departure from the DA’s office. The book introduced her signature character prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, with the story inspired by a case Fairstein had prosecuted. Night Watch, her fourteenth novel, came out in 2012.
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