Sexual Assault Case Processing: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Abstract

One of the goals of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is to end violence against women and girls in all countries. An important component of this goal is ensuring that all crimes of violence against women and girls are taken seriously by the criminal justice system and that police, prosecutors, judges and jurors respond appropriately. However, research detailing how cases of sexual assault proceed in the criminal justice system reveals that this goal remains elusive, both in the United States and elsewhere. The rape reform movement ushered in changes to traditional rape law that were designed to encourage victims to report to the police and to remove barriers to arrest and successful prosecution. However, four decades after this reform, victims are still reluctant to report sexual assaults to the police, and arrest, prosecution and conviction rates for sexual assault cases are shockingly low. Reversing these trends will require policy changes that are designed to counteract the stereotypes and myths underpinning sexual assault and sexual assault victims.

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Published: 2020-02-25
Pages:86 to 94
Section:Articles
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Author Biography

Arizona State University
 United States

Cassia Spohn is a Regents Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. She was the Director of the School from 2014 to 2020. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, a Fellow of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and a Fellow of the Western Society of Criminology. She is the recipient of numerous academic awards, including the University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, the W.E.B. DuBois Award for Contributions to Research on Crime and Race/Ethnicity, and Arizona State University’s Faculty Achievement Award for Defining-Edge Research in the Social Sciences. Her research interests include prosecutorial and judicial decision making, the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, crime and justice, and sexual assault case processing decisions. She currently is a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Military. She also has served as a consultant to the US Sentencing Commission and currently serves as a consultant to the MacArthur Foundation’s project on advancing prosecutorial effectiveness and fairness through data and innovation. In 2020 she will be the president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.