Exploring stakeholders’ perceptions of adult female sexual assault case attrition.

This article discussed why many working in the sexual violence prevention field, feel that the sexual assault case attrition numbers are not improving.


Summary: A sample of 51 professionals in a Northeastern state who worked in the sexual violence prevention field and/or the criminal justice system completed structured interviews consisting of four questions.  The purpose of the interviews was to identify the challenges and possible solutions for improving the handling and prosecution of sexual assault cases within the criminal justice system.  The resulting 261 pages of interviews notes were analyzed by a team of researchers. The results revealed three factors that may contribute to sexual assault case attrition (the failure of arrests to come to trial); the CSI effect, justice and healing, and inconsistent responses.  The CSI effect theme was defined as the jurors not determining a guilty verdict or finding enough evidence to proceed with case prosecution, even though presence of physical evidence is not typical in sexual assault cases.  The justice and healing theme related to the experience that many sexual assault victims want to heal on their own way/terms, without the perceived intrusion of the criminal justice system.  The inconsistent response theme described the varied responses to sexual assault that occur throughout the state due to limited and inconsistent opportunities for trainings and a lack of collaboration between agencies.  The researchers hoped that the study may inform future research focused on enhancing collaborations among diverse professionals with the aims of reducing the effects of sexual violence.   


Application: This study examines female sexual assault case attrition rates based on the experiences and observations of sexual violence prevention professionals.  The results of this study may inform sexual violence prevention professionals in their current work as they may be able to include strategies to improve the problems identified in the study in their current curriculum.


Limitations: This study was limited to sexual assault prevention professionals located in a small Northeastern state.

Murphy, S., Banyard, V. L.,& Fennessey E., D.
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Psychology of Violence
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