The "justice gap" for sexual assault cases: future directions for research and reform

Violence Against Women. 2012 Feb;18(2):145-68. doi: 10.1177/1077801212440017.


Media coverage often reports "good" news about the criminal justice system's ability to effectively respond to sexual assault, concluding that the past two decades have seen an increase in rape reporting, prosecution, and conviction. The objective of this article is to examine the validity of such conclusions by critically reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of various data sources and comparing the statistics they produce. These statistics include estimates for sexual assault reporting rates and case outcomes in the criminal justice system. We conclude that such pronouncements are not currently supported by statistical evidence, and we outline some directions for future research and reform efforts to make the "good news" a reality in the United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Male
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*