MAKERS Profile

Linda Fairstein

Prosecutor

In this video

Linda Fairstein spent 26 years as head of the Manhattan DA's sex crime unit. It was a position that had only existed for two years before she took over and forged the way that the sex crime unit would work to solve cases and protect victims.
Linda Fairstein is a sex crimes prosecutor who served as head of Manhattan's District Attorney's sex crimes prosecution unit, one of the first of its kinda in the country. After being asked to take the position in 1976 by District Attorney Morgenthau, Fairstein served in the role for 26 years paving the way for how special victims units would not only collect and deal with evidence but also how they would handle victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.   Fairstein is also an internationally best-selling author of a crime novel series about Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. She has also written the non-fiction work and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape.   A graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law, Fairstein is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for her legal work and advocacy, including the New York Women’s 2010 Agenda Lifetime Achievement Award for her domestic violence work. She serves on a number of non-profit boards including the country's largest victim advocacy organization, Safe Horizon.

More From Linda

Only Crime Where Victim Is Blamed
Fairstein on how rape is the only crime in which the victim is blamed for the actions of the man who attacked her. 

Domestic Violence Was Not A Crime
Fairstein on how domestic violence did not exist as a category of crime within the criminal justice system and how casually domestic abuse was treated by even some of the most esteemed judges in the country.

Once Every 23 Seconds
Fairstein explains how public opinion was that violence against women was a "problem of the underclass" and how people were surprised to learn how widespread it actually is. 

The Cost of Domestic Abuse
Fairstein talks about how she finally got Corporate America to understand the impact of domestic abuse by putting it into dollar signs.

"Why Didn't She Just Leave?"
Fairstein on the various dynamics that make it incredibly difficult for a woman to "just leave" an abusive relationship and how victim advocacy group Safe Horizon offers shelter for abused women and children.

Only Feminists Were Fighting Violence Against Women
Fairstein talks about how being a feminist influenced her career choice and how it was the feminists, not the criminal justice system, who fought against violence against women.

"No One To Teach Us"
Fairstein shares how her first years leading the Manhattan DA's sex crime unit were an exciting time of progress with evidence collection and new protocol for special victims cases.

The Case She Saw Over and Over Again
Fairstein recalls one of her first sexual assault cases that made it to trial and how the grievous circumstances created for the sexual assault victim by the laws of the time led to her seeing the same case over and over again.

New Laws, Same Attitude
Fairstein explains that even though there was progress with the laws during the 1970s and 80s, public attitudes did not change as quickly, and victim blaming was still rampant.

The Victims of These Crimes
Fairstein on her disbelief at how many people dismiss or argue the prevalence of sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse, and how it's not until someone's neighbor or relative becomes a victim do their eyes truly open. 

3 Point Corroboration Requirement
Fairstein on the "ancient laws" she was working under when she first started out how challenging it made it to prove sex crime victims' testimony.

17th Century Law in the 20th Century
Fairstein explains that the laws the D.A. was operating under in 1972 were influenced directly by outdated 17th century British common law.