"Real Rape" and "Real Victims:" Revisiting Police Decision-Making in Sexual Assault Case Processing



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Police discretionary decision-making in sexual assault case processing has received considerable empirical attention for several decades. This has been, in part, the result of substantial case attrition, where many sexual assault cases will not proceed through the criminal legal system after a victim reports. Limited studies have focused on earlier police decisions that precede arrest as a potential pathway for case attrition. The current study used 465 sexual assault cases reported to a large, urban police department, located in one of the fifth largest and most diverse U.S. cities to examine the role of victim race and ethnicity, along with victim, suspect, and case factors that represent the “real rape” stereotype on police officers’ decision to: 1) assign a sexual assault case to an investigator and 2) the time to investigator assignment. Theoretical and research considerations, policy implications, and directions for future research are discussed.



Sociology, Criminology and Penology, Sociology, Criminology and Penology