The purpose of this project was to examine adolescent sexual assault survivors’ help-seeking experiences with the legal and medical systems in two Midwestern communities that have different models of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) / SexualMoreThe purpose of this project was to examine adolescent sexual assault survivors’ help-seeking experiences with the legal and medical systems in two Midwestern communities that have different models of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) / Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) interventions.
This project had two main objectives. First, we conducted qualitative interviews with adolescent sexual assault victims regarding their initial post-assault disclosures and their pathways to seeking help from the medical and legal systems. It is important to understand how and why teen survivors decide to seek help from these programs in the first place.
Although SANE-SART interventions have the potential to be useful resources to teen victims, they are only useful insofar as they are utilized by survivors. In Study 1, we conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with N=20 adolescent sexual assault victims 14-17 years old. From these interviews, we identified three distinct patterns of survivors’ post-assault disclosures and their pathways to seeking help from SANE programs and the criminal justice system: voluntary (survivors’ contact with the legal and medical system was by their choice), involuntary (system contact was not by choice), and situational (circumstances of the assault itself prompted involuntary disclosure).
Victims with voluntary disclosures patterns were more likely to remain engaged with the legal system throughout the investigation process. Those in the involuntary disclosure pattern were only sometimes willing to continue to pursue legal prosecution. There were too few situational disclosures to examine the impact of system entry on subsequent system involvement.The second objective was to conduct a quantitative analysis to determine what factors predict successful prosecution of adolescent sexual assault cases.
Once teen victims are “in the system” what factors determine whether a case will be prosecuted? Criminal justice prosecution is a multi-step process, from reporting to referral, arrest, prosecution (which itself has many steps), and final case outcome. Rather than focusing at any one stage, we assessed progress through this system as an ordinal variable in order to capture incremental change. We examined how differences between the two SANE-SART models—and the evolution of these models over time—predicted prosecution outcomes relative to the predictive utility of victim characteristics, assault characteristics, and medical forensic evidence findings.