Sexual violence: our war against rape


For more than fifteen years, Linda Fairstein has directed the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit within the Manhattan D.A.'s office. The first such organization in the country, this unit is charged with supervising every sex crimes prosecution in Manhattan. As a consequence Linda Fairstein and her associates have been at the very center of the massive changes in sex crimes law and procedure that have occurred over the past two decades. Emulated in most other major cities, New York's SCPU and its counterparts throughout ...
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For more than fifteen years, Linda Fairstein has directed the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit within the Manhattan D.A.'s office. The first such organization in the country, this unit is charged with supervising every sex crimes prosecution in Manhattan. As a consequence Linda Fairstein and her associates have been at the very center of the massive changes in sex crimes law and procedure that have occurred over the past two decades. Emulated in most other major cities, New York's SCPU and its counterparts throughout the country have had extraordinary high success rates in prosecuting these violent crimes. Through their efforts, a victim of rape now can expect sensitive treatment from the police, can expect to be believed and supported, and has some reasonable expectation of winning in the courtroom. In Sexual Violence, Linda Fairstein shares the wisdom she has accumulated on the front lines in the war against rape, from her beginnings as a corporate law-bound female graduate of a prestigious law school to her job in the D.A.'s office at a time when criminal prosecution was "no place for a woman." Over the years, Linda Fairstein has personally tried or been involved in scores of nationally prominent rape cases, including the Robert Chambers Preppy Murder Trial and the case of the Central Park Jogger. She has been called upon to comment on virtually every significant sex crimes investigation in the country. Through the story of the Midtown Rapist case and other major investigations, she shows here how the system works to protect victims and punish criminals: how evidence is gathered, how witnesses are interviewed, how indictments are produced, and, finally, the nuts and bolts of trial, verdict, and sentencing. Sexual Violence is a living document of the transformation of our notion of sex crimes, an up-to-date commentary on the vital issues of stranger and date rape and the struggle to expunge the traditional stigma that has for too long been attached to victims of s

For two decades, Linda Fairstein has waged war against rape. From directing Mahattan's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit to her involvement in nationally prominent rape cases, this book offers the extraordinary story of the crimes, the trials, the convictions--and the massive changes within the legal processes that give new hope to sex crime victims today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since 1976, as chief of New York City's Sex Crime Prosecution Unit, Fairstein has not only prosecuted rapists mercilessly but helped to ``remove the veil of secrecy'' from the crime of rape. This she defines as ``a crime of violence with sex as the weapon,'' now extended to include ``date and acquaintance rape.'' To encourage formerly stigmatized rape victims to come forward, the author focuses on episodes of a serial ``Midtown Rapist'' and the arduous, skillful tracking that led to his trial and long prison sentence. She notes an improved rate of convictions, due in part to a Special Victims squad, DNA identification and changes in laws governing rape cases that also reflect greater sensitivity toward victims. These include outlawing evidence based on a victim's past sexual activity, mandating secret grand jury hearings without the presence of the defendant and allowing a rape victim to testify without corroboration. The reader will find this an absorbing memoir despite its occasional grimness. Major ad/promo; first serial to Glamour and Cosmopolitan. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This recounting of Fairstein's 20 years as a sex crimes prosecutor in New York City's District Attorney's office stands as a companion work to Alice Vachss's Sex Crimes ( LJ 5/15/93). While Vachss describes the evolution of the laws and attitudes toward sex crimes and reflects on society's historically unyielding attitude toward victims, Fairstein is concerned primarily with the ways the courts and the criminal justice system view sex crimes today. Her book can be seen as a procedural text on how properly to investigate and prosecute a sex crime--how to sort out myths from reality; how to draw out the complete truth from victims; and how to ensure that sex criminals are properly tried. Recommended for libraries with in-depth collections on crime and the administration of justice. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/93.-- Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
The author, an assistant district attorney in New York County and the director of the sex crimes prosecution unit, describes some cases she's handled. For general readers. No bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
Gripping depiction of the prosecutor's view of rape, by the current head of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. When Fairstein graduated from law school, her overwhelming ambition was to join the Manhattan D.A.'s office, considered the best in the country. Warned that then-D.A. Frank Hogan, 30 years on the job, had "traditional" views (there were seven women among the 160 lawyers working for him), Fairstein persisted and got an interview—during which Hogan told her, "Its tawdry, very tawdry, Miss place for a woman like you." Nevertheless, in 1972, Hogan hired Fairstein. Then, in 1976, a new D.A. was elected: Robert Morgenthau, whom the author cites frequently for his support of women—for greatly enlarging, and assigning top-notch lawyers to, the SCPU (first of its kind in the country); innovating special services to protect victims; and making all positions in his department open to women. Here, Fairstein explains, as she does to juries, the "nature of rape—an act of violence, power, humiliation, and control rather than sexual coupling." She analyzes the antique laws—based on 17th-century English common law—that for so long tied the hands of the police and resulted in only one out of ten victims coming forward: Uniquely, in this most intimate of crimes, rape laws required corroboration of a witness; meanwhile, defense attorneys were permitted to drag the woman's entire sex life through open court. Fairstein's interjections about some of the fascinating and bizarre cases she's prosecuted—including high-profile ones like the Robert Chambers and Central Park jogger case, as well as cases of date rape; serial rape; false reporting;and rape scams—keep her report moving forward briskly. A very strong and complete education in this singularly repugnant crime. (For another, not quite so compelling, memoir of prosecuting rape, see Alice Vachss's Sex Crimes, p. 585) (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen) (First serial to Glamour and Cosmopolitan)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425147801
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/1995
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Fairstein
Linda Fairstein
Hailed by Patricia Cornwell as "one of the most promising forces in crime fiction," former head of the Manhattan District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit Linda Fairstein has hooked readers with her intense mystery series featuring assistant D.A. -- and Fairstein's alter ego -- Alex Cooper.


Linda Fairstein is passionate about putting sex offenders behind bars and had done just that many times, both in real life -- as one of New York City's premier sex crimes prosecutors -- and in her fiction, with her popular series of Alex Cooper mysteries.

Born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Fairstein attended Vassar College, where she majored in English literature. She went on to receive a law degree from the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law in 1972. In November of that year, Fairstein was assigned to the staff of the New York County District Attorney's office and was soon heading up the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit, where she developed a reputation as one of the toughest prosecutors in the office's history. Fairstein spent the next two decades dedicating herself to nailing the worst of the city's sexual offenders, working on such high-profile cases as the Preppy Murder and the Central Park Jogger.

In 1993, Fairstein was named "Woman of the Year" by New Woman and Glamour magazines. A year later, her groundbreaking nonfiction book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape, was named a Notable Book by The New York Times.

Fairstein's first foray into fiction writing was 1994's Final Jeopardy, which introduced the tough, savvy assistant D.A. Alexandra "Alex" Cooper -- a character close to the author's own identity -- who was well received by fans and critics. As Publishers Weekly noted, Alex's "greatest appeal lies in the warmth of her friendships, the humanness of her mistakes and her unswerving devotion to protecting the next female from harm."

Since then, Fairstein has continued to chronicle Alex Cooper's crime-solving adventures in a string of bestsellers that draws on the author's thoroughgoing knowledge of the legal system and longtime affection for the Big Apple. A believer in public service, Fairstein sits on the board of directors of several nonprofit groups, among them the National Center for Victims of Crime, Phoenix House Foundation, and New York Women's Agenda, and has also served on President Clinton's Violence Against Women Advisory Council, New York Women's Agenda Domestic Violence Committee, the American College of Trial Lawyers, The Women's Forum, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

In an interview on her publisher's web site, Fairstein explains that her career and her life's mission are one in the same: "I think so much more is possible in terms of what we are able to give women who have been victims of violence and how they can triumph in a courtroom," Fairstein reflects. "So to take this -- the professional life I've had over the last 30 years and to mix it with the great pleasure of writing -- is something I never dreamed I'd actually be able to accomplish."

Good To Know

Fairstein is married to Justin Feldman, a lawyer who helped run Robert F. Kennedy's 1964 United States Senate campaign.

Fairstein has admitted to having her eye on the post of United States Attorney General, and in fact interviewed for that position in 1993.

Cold Hit made President Clinton's highly-publicized vacation reading list in 1999.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 5, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Mount Vernon, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Vassar College, 1969; J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1972
    2. Website:

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