, Volume 50, Issue 1-2, pp 141-154

Adolescent Sexual Assault Victims and the Legal System: Building Community Relationships to Improve Prosecution Rates

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Adolescents are at high risk for sexual assault, but few of these crimes are reported to the police and prosecuted by the criminal justice system. To address this problem, communities throughout the United States have implemented multidisciplinary interventions to improve post-assault care for victims and increase prosecution rates. The two most commonly implemented interventions are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs and Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs). The purpose of this study was to determine whether community-level context (i.e., stakeholder engagement and collaboration) was predictive of adolescent legal case outcomes, after accounting for “standard” factors that affect prosecution success (i.e., victim, assault, and evidence characteristics). Overall, 40% of the adolescent cases from these two SANE–SART programs (over a 10-year period) were successfully prosecuted. Cases were more likely to be prosecuted for younger victims, those with disabilities, those who knew their offenders, and instances in which the rape evidence collection kit was submitted by police for analysis. After accounting for these influences, multi-level modeling results revealed that in one site decreased allocation of community resources to adolescent sexual assault cases had a significant negative effect on prosecution case outcomes. Results are explained in terms of Wolff’s (Am J Community Psychol 29:173–191, 2001) concept of “over-coalitioned” communities and Kelly’s (1968) ecological principles.