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Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse: A Partnership To Improve Outcomes

NCJ Number
Date Published
Stephanie D. Block, Linda M. Williams
This is the final summary overview of a study that conducted a retrospective analysis of 500 child sexual abuse (CSA) cases referred for prosecution in one state for the purpose of identifying barriers to prosecuting these cases.
Case records were analyzed for evidence related to the alleged incident and details about the victim, the victim’s family, the alleged perpetrator, and the prosecutorial decisions. The case attrition and the case characteristics associated with prosecution outcomes were also assessed. The study found that a small proportion of the CSA cases examined (less than one in five) reached the prosecution stage. Approximately half of those cases resulted in a conviction or guilty plea. An important predictor of a case moving toward prosecution was non-offending caregiver support of the child. New strategies for supporting caregivers and psycho-educational approaches designed to emphasize the importance of believing/supporting the child are needed. Another suggestion is to connect caregivers with other caregivers who have been involved in a CSA case. Evidentiary issues included problems with disclosures of the sexual abuse. A case often involved whether to accept a child’s version of events or that of an involved adult. The study also found that perpetrator criminal history and number of victims predicted case outcomes. Some problems encountered in determining a suspect’s criminal history are discussed. The project continues to work on developing guidelines and suggestions for innovation in prosecuting CSA cases, building on the partnerships developed in conducting this research. This report notes that these efforts will require that multidisciplinary teams develop action plans and evaluate their impact. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 27 references
Date Created: April 14, 2019