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Increasing Sexual Assault Prosecution Rates

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2009
4 pages
Publication Series
This article reports on a study that evaluated the effects of SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) programs in a large Midwestern county on how far sexual assault cases progressed through the criminal justice system during the years before and after the programs started.
The study found statistically significant increases in various case progression measures after the SANE programs were created, including the percentage of cases that eventually resulted in guilty pleas or convictions. The number of cases referred to prosecutors but not warranted for prosecution declined from 17 percent to 15 percent. Cases resulting in guilty pleas or trial convictions increased from 24 percent to 29 percent. Advances in DNA testing technology have resulted in much smaller samples yielding results. This may have increased the rates of conclusive DNA evidence obtained by SANE programs. The study found that although DNA was a significant predictor of case progression through the criminal justice system, SANE programs still provided distinctively positive contributions to case outcomes. Cases that involved penetration were also more likely to progress through the system than those that involved fondling. Cases in which the victim reported being under the influence of alcohol or drugs were less likely to progress through the system. Besides providing forensic evidence from SANE examinations, the SANE teams are also available to testify in court as expert witnesses. SANE programs in the county studied do not pressure their patients to contact law enforcement and pursue prosecution. Nurses and advocates seek to minimize victim trauma as they focus on providing high-quality patient care and attending to victims' emotional needs. The study involved a sample of 156 pre-SANE cases and 141 post-SANE cases. All victims received complete medical forensic exams, and the exam results were analyzed by the State crime laboratory for DNA evidence.

Date Published: November 1, 2009