​Prosecuting intimate partner sexual assault: legal and extra-legal factors that influence charging decisions

Author(s) O'Neal, Eryn Nicole, Katharine Tellis and Cassia Spohn
Title Prosecuting intimate partner sexual assault: legal and extra-legal factors that influence charging decisions
Source Violence Against Women; Oct 2015, Vol.21 (10), p 1237-1258
Date 2015
Document type Journal article
CoverageUSA
Summary In this study the authors analyse qualitative data on 47 Intimate partner sexual assault (IPSA) cases referred to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. Of these 47 cases only 14 resulted in the filing of charges against the suspect. Cases were rejected primarily because the prosecutor believed there was insufficient evidence for a conviction and/or the victim was not credible. Other cases were rejected because the victim was unwilling to cooperate in the prosecution of the accused. Victim credibility was seen as important, with 20 charge evaluation sheets mentioning victim credibility as a reason for rejection. In some cases IPSA was seen as a trivial conflict between partners compared to stranger rape. Another theme that emerged was the importance of physical intimate partner violence and it was found that about a quarter of the cases did not involve past domestic violence factors, and these were all rejected by the prosecutor. The findings suggest that prosecutors consider both legal and extra-legal factors when making charging decisions and various cultural, legal and rape myths surrounding IPSA influence the decisions.
Keywords IPV; intimate partner violence; intimate partner sexual assault; prosecution; decision making; charging decisions
Topic Domestic violence; Sexual assault