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Forensic Evidence and Criminal Justice Outcomes in a Statewide Sample of Sexual Assault Cases

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2011, $97,519)

This study has three goals: (a) to provide a detailed description of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases, including its timing relative to criminal justice outcomes; (b) to examine the relationship of forensic evidence to criminal justice outcomes; and (c) to analyze the effect of forensic evidence in key segments of the sample: cases with child victims, cases with stranger assailants, and cases with SANEs conducting the examination. The research objectives include 1) examining the frequency of different types of forensic evidence; 2) assessing the timing of forensic evidence availability vis-à-vis arrests and filing criminal charges; 3) assessing the relationship of forensic evidence to arrests and filing criminal charges; 4) assessing whether the relationship of forensic evidence to outcomes is stronger in cases with child victims and in cases with stranger suspects; 5) comparing SANEs versus non-SANE medical providers on forensic evidence and on arrests and filing criminal charges.

The proposed retrospective research will draw a random sample 436 sexual assault cases reported in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts between 2008 and 2010 from a database of 3,000 documented sexual assault cases with medical examinations maintained by the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Using unique, anonymous case identifiers, data will be merged from three sources: 1) Provider Sexual Crime Reports, a mandatory form on assault and victim characteristics filled out by medical providers and stored in EOPSS' data base, 2) Non-electronic crime laboratory data, from which data on forensic evidence and injury will be abstracted and put into spreadsheets, and 3) Police incident data from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and a Boston Police database, electronic databases that provide information on arrest and filing criminal charges as well as victim, offense and assailant characteristics. Descriptive and bivariate statistics will be used to describe the prevalence and timing of different types of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases. Multi-variable logistic regression analyses will assess the effect of forensic evidence on case outcomes, controlling for other variables of importance. Logistic regression analyses will also examine forensic evidence by age of victim and forensic evidence by assailant relationship to victim interactions, to see if the effect of forensic evidence is stronger for child victims and in stranger cases, and examine forensic evidence effects separately in these groups. Logistic regression will also compare SANE and non-SANE cases on forensic evidence and arrest and filing charges, and to see if any SANE impact on outcomes is mediated by the forensic evidence SANEs obtain.

Date Created: September 20, 2011