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