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Sexual Assault in Missoula – Second take [Part XII] [AUDIO]

As we’ve heard from a victim and victim’s advocates, the pursuit of sexual assault cases most often stops short of a conviction.  Prosecutors across the country agree that sexual assault is one of the most difficult cases they handle.

In today’s program, Missoula County District Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg shares his perspectives on why these cases are so difficult.  Listen here… 

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Photo courtest Michigan State University

Is gender bias a factor?  A 2004 research project* supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice found “… that legally irrelevant victim characteristics did influence the decision to charge in cases in which the victim and the suspect were acquaintances, relatives, or intimate partners.  In these types of cases, prosecutors’ anticipation of a consent defense and downstream orientation toward judges and juries apparently leads them to scrutinize more carefully the victim’s character and behavior. Evidence that challenges the victim’s credibility or fosters a belief that she was not entirely blameless increases uncertainty about the outcome of the case and thus reduces the odds of prosecution. Notwithstanding the rape law reforms promulgated during the past three decades, victim characteristics continue to influence charging decisions in at least some sexual assault cases.”

* Prosecuting Sexual Assault: A Comparison of Charging Decisions in Sexual Assault Cases Involving Strangers, Acquaintances, and Intimate Partners: Cassia Spohn and David Holleran; 2004

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