Five factors that can determine the fate of a sexual assault case | Star Tribune

Five factors that can determine
the fate of a sexual assault case

The Star Tribune has reviewed more than 1,400 reports of sexual assault made to 20 Minnesota law enforcement agencies in 2015 and 2016. Less than 30 percent of the cases we reviewed were sent to prosecutors and only 8 percent of reported cases resulted in a conviction. Our analysis identified some critical factors that can influence how aggressively police and prosecutors investigate and charge cases.

Sent for

prosecution

Charges

filed

Conviction

50%

Involved

46%

21%

13%

0%

Not involved

2%

1%

0%

If the victim stays involved

Victims dropped out of the investigation in about one-third of the cases we reviewed. In almost all instances, the case ended there. While some victims explicitly choose not to pursue charges, advocates and others say police treatment of victims plays a big role in whether they stay involved in their case.


Sent for

prosecution

Charges

filed

Conviction

50%

Stranger

49%

Acquaintance

35%

27%

23%

21%

12%

0%

If the assailant and victim knew each other

Most rape victims knew their attacker before the assault. These cases, even when the victim stays involved, are less likely to result in charges or convictions than assaults committed by strangers.


Sent for

prosecution

Charges

filed

Conviction

50%

Not intoxicated

36%

Intoxicated

35%

16%

9%

12%

7%

0%

If the victim is intoxicated

About 30 percent of sexual assaults committed by friends, former partners or other acquaintances occurred when the victim had been drinking. This sometimes made it easier for the accused to challenge the victim's memory of what happened.


Sent for

prosecution

Charges

filed

Conviction

50%

No delay

31%

Delay

27%

16%

10%

9%

5%

0%

If the victim delays reporting

About one-third of cases are reported two or more days after the sexual assault occurred. A delay makes it less likely investigators will collect evidence and track down witnesses.


Sent for

prosecution

Charges

filed

Conviction

50%

Exam

31%

27%

No exam

16%

10%

5%

3%

0%

If a rape exam is conducted

In cases where a rape exam was applicable, victims went to a hospital for the procedure nearly 70 percent of the time. Investigators rely heavily on the evidence collected during a rape exam to identify a suspect or provide evidence of physical injury.

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