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Predicting Sexual Assault Prosecution Outcomes: The Rule of Medical Forensic Evidence Collected by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 36 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2009 Pages: 712-727
Date Published
July 2009
16 pages

This study examined a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program's effect on adult sexual assault case investigation and prosecution in a large midwestern county


Results show prediction of case outcomes was best achieved by the inclusion of medical forensic evidence factors obtained by SANE participants; positive DNA evidence significantly increased the likelihood of case progression. Accounting for organizational-level differences across the five law enforcement agencies in the sample, this study compared relative contributions of victim, assault, and medical forensic evidence findings in the prediction of case progression. With respect to victim characteristics, survivors between the ages of 18 and 21 were significantly more likely to have their cases moved to dispositions of higher outcomes. Prior research in non-SANE communities has typically found the opposite effect; specifically, middle-aged women were more likely to have their cases prosecuted. However, these results are consistent with prior research which found that cases involving younger women proceeded further through the system. With respect to assault characteristics, penetration crimes were significantly more likely to be prosecuted; however, the more complicated issue is the effect of the victim-offender relationship, which has yielded inconsistent findings in prior projects. If the offender was an intimate partner or husband, a former intimate partner or husband, a dating partner, or a family member, the case was significantly more likely to advance to a level of higher disposition. When there was a greater delay between the time of the assault and the time that the survivor had the medical forensic exam, the case was less likely to progress through the system. Data were collected from 137 adult sexual assault cases that were treated in the local SANE program during its first 6 plus years of operation. Tables, notes, and references

Date Published: July 1, 2009