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The Sexual Stratification Hypothesis and Prosecuting Sexual Assault: Is the Decision to File Charges Influenced by the Victim-Suspect Racial-Ethnic Dyad?

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 67 Issue: 8 Dated: 2021 Pages: 1165-1194
Date Published
30 pages

Using data from 389 sexual assault (SA) complaints reported to Los Angeles police and referred to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, this study examines whether the victim-suspect racial-ethnic dyad and extra-legal victim-related factors shape prosecutorial initial filing decisions.



The sexual stratification hypothesis (SSH) posits that criminal-legal responses to sexual victimization differ depending on the victim-suspect racial-ethnic dyad. Existing tests of the SSH have resulted in inconsistent findings. Notably, we build on previous SSH tests by rotating racial-ethnic dyad reference categories to catalog all possible pairwise differences within the set of dummy variables. Findings suggest that prosecutors consider the victim-suspect racial-ethnic dyad and victim-related factors during initial filing. Theoretical advancements, practical implications, and suggestions for future research are discussed. (Publisher Abstract)


Date Published: January 1, 2021