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NCJ Number: 97314 Find in a Library
Title: Criminal Justice System's Response to the Rape Victim (From Rape and Sexual Assault, P 189-198, 1985, Ann W Burgess, ed. - See NCJ-97300)
Author(s): L L Holmstrom
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: Garland Publishing, Inc.
New York, NY 10003-3304
Sale Source: Garland Publishing, Inc.
19 Union Square
West Floor 8
New York, NY 10003-3304
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This review of research on the criminal justice system's response to the rape victim focuses on factors influencing whether or not rape victims report the crime, police and prosecutor attitudes that affect their handling of rape cases, and factors affecting the legal outcomes of rape cases. Recommendations are drawn from the research findings.
Abstract: Because fear is the rape victim's primary emotion during the attack, those who want victims to report their rapes to the police should develop procedures that help victims regain their sense of well-being. The victim's social network is also important, since someone other than the victim often reports the rape. Social norms that support victims' intentions to report need strengthening. Women are more likely to report if the assailant is a stranger or acquaintance than if the perpetrator is a friend or relative. The police occupy a crucial role in the handling of sexual assault cases. However, police officers and other criminal justice personnel hold attitudes toward rape cases that differ from the attitudes of rape center workers on many issues, including the causes of rape. The vigor with which police investigate a case depends largely on their perception of the strength of the evidence. The presence of a female police officer on a rape case increases the chance that the complaint will be found valid. Research on the contrasts between the police role and the prosecutor's role and prosecutors' views of rape victims indicate other obstacles to successful prosecutions. The victim's characteristics are crucial in determining jury verdicts, particularly when consent or misidentification is argued by the defense. Promising reforms that will benefit rape victims include developing an audit trail to track cases, encouraging the use of female police officers in rape cases, and treating the victim as an ally rather than an adversary of the criminal justice system. Other reforms should include rewarding police for documentation of evidence, undertaking appropriate law reform, and giving victims advice on how to be an effective witness. Twenty references are listed.
Index Term(s): Citizen crime reporting; Criminal justice system reform; Police attitudes; Police-victim interaction; Prosecution; Sexual assault victims; Victim services; Witness assistance
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