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Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse in Rural Kentucky: Factors Influencing Case Acceptance by Prosecuting Attorneys

NCJ Number
American Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 22 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 1998 Pages: 207-234
D K Moore
Date Published
28 pages
Semi-structured interviews of prosecuting attorneys from 20 rural circuits in Kentucky were used to examine the relationship between felony prosecutors' discretion and the legal and social factors present in cases of child sexual abuse.
The interviews sought to determine what influenced the prosecutors to accept or not accept a case for prosecution. The participants included 19 white males and 1 white female; their average age was 45.5 years. Results revealed a relationship between rural Kentucky prosecutors' decisions to accept a case and the availability of physical evidence, victim's age and competence, potential trauma inflicted on the victim, and the situation in which the allegation of sexual abuse originated. Findings can enable police officers and multidisciplinary teams to understand better what evidence is needed for prosecutor acceptance and eventual conviction in child sexual abuse cases. In addition, future research is needed regarding demographics of felony prosecuting attorneys and their opinions on what is sufficient evidence, on jury perceptions of child sexual abuse, and other topics. List of cases cited and 41 references