Dr. Williams, Dr. Block, and their colleagues developed this white paper, Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges in Achieving Justice, based on their study funded by the National Institute of Justice. The study analyzed 500 reports of child sexual abuse (CSA) to examine predictors of which cases moved forward to prosecution. It looked at the response to reports of CSA and the characteristics of cases that dropped out of the criminal justice system along the way.
Of the reports of CSA the researchers reviewed that involved perpetrators 16 and older, 50% stalled at the investigation stage, fewer than 25% were prosecuted, and only 14% resulted in a determination of guilt. The researchers identified many of the obstacles that prosecutors, child victims and their caregivers, and child advocates face in responding to these cases.
The white paper delves into these obstacles and makes actionable recommendations for achieving justice for all involved and for strengthening the safety of communities. It was written with input from many in the field, including prosecutors, child advocates, social workers, and pediatricians.
As the white paper concludes, addressing the challenges documented by this research and finding and evaluating solutions will require the continued work of the justice system and the community. Sustainable change will also require education and a shift in beliefs and social norms so that the occurrence of CSA is recognized, and community members are able to participate in protection and prevention efforts.
Williams, L.M., Block, S.D., Johnson, H.M., Ramsey, M.G., and Winstead, A.P. (2022, April). Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges in Achieving Justice. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women. wcwonline.org/jgbvr
This publication was funded in part by a Writing and Dissemination Award from the Wellesley Centers for Women. The study was supported by Award No. 2014-MU-MU-0001 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Justice.