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It All Just Piles Up: Challenges to Victim Credibility Accumulate to Influence Sexual Assault Case Processing

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 34 Issue: 15 Dated: 2019 Pages: 3151-3170
Date Published
20 pages
This study examined how factors that challenge victim credibility affect the likelihood of arrest in sexual assault cases in which the alleged victim and offender are either strangers, acquaintances, or intimate partners.

The underreporting of sexual assault is well known to researchers, practitioners, and victims. When victims do report, their complaints are unlikely to end in arrest or prosecution. Existing research on police discretion suggests that the police decision to arrest for sexual assault offenses can be influenced by a variety of legal and extra-legal factors particularly challenges to victim credibility. Although extant literature examines the effects of individual behaviors on police outcomes, less is known about how the accumulation of these behaviors, attributions, and characteristics affects police decision making. The current study used data collected from the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department, to examine one police decision point, i.e., the arrest, in order fill this gap in the research literature. First, the study examined the extent to which the effects of potential challenges to victim credibility, based on victim characteristics and behaviors, influenced the arrest decision; next, it analyzed how these predictors varied across circumstances. 42 references (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019