Low Prosecution Rates in Sexual Assault Cases: Can We Make Sustainable Improvements?

Low Prosecution Rates in Sexual Assault Cases: Can We Make Sustainable Improvements?

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This webinar originally occurred on April 25, 2023
Duration: 1 hour


This webinar begins with contextual information about prosecution case outcomes in sexual assault cases of adult victims. The challenges in tracking the criminal case outcomes will be discussed. Dr. Valentine will introduce the National Institute of Justice Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Practitioner Toolkit as a means of tracking sexual assault criminal case outcomes in communities with sexual assault nurse examiner programs. She will provide research findings on implementing the Toolkit in two counties in Utah, a Mountain West state in the United States, and evaluate victim and assault variables associated with and predictive of case prosecution. As the victim and assault variables were collected from sexual assault medical forensic examination forms, previously unexplored variables specific to the examination forms were entered into the data analysis. 

The Toolkit was previously implemented in the urban Site A in 2013, so findings were compared to evaluate for improvements. The findings indicate that the justice gap of low sexual assault case prosecution continues regardless of multiple sexual assault response reform actions implemented by this state. Law enforcement reasons for not referring cases for prosecution included uncooperative victim, victim did not want to pursue, and unfounded or lack of evidence. For Site B, variables predictive for prosecution included victim was strangled, suspect was minority, and the victim was asleep and awakened to being assaulted. The only predictive variable of prosecution for both sites was if the victim was asleep and awakened to being assaulted, supporting the premise that victims viewed as righteous victims are more likely to experience successful case prosecutions. 

Participants will be invited to consider societal, structural, and legislative barriers faced in their jurisdictions in improving criminal case outcomes. Recommendations to improve prosecution rates and create safer and healthier societies include supporting multidisciplinary community response, increasing victim support services, implementing criminal justice system trainings on trauma-informed approaches and policies, and examining state statutes defining felony sexual assault charges. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will be able to verbalize understanding of the challenges faced in tracking sexual assault case processing.
  2. Attendees will understand the National Institute of Justice Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Practitioner Evaluation Toolkit.
  3. Attendees will be able to analyze factors affecting prosecution rates in adult sexual assault cases and discuss how to improve sexual assault case processing in their jurisdictions.


  • Dr. Julie L. Valentine | Associate Dean and Associate Professor, Bringham Young University


Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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