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Identifying the characteristics of child sexual abuse cases that exit the criminal justice system before the forensic interview
journal contributionposted on 2016-06-01, 00:00 authored by Larissa Christensen, Stefanie SharmanStefanie Sharman, Martine Powell
Most child sexual abuse cases do not result in conviction; rather, they result in attrition at an earlier point in the system. Although research has looked at case characteristics associated with attrition at later stages of the system (i.e. the laying of charges and prosecution stages), to date, no research has studied the case characteristics associated with attrition as soon as a report has been made to authorities. The aim of this study was to determine the case characteristics (child complainant, suspect and additional case characteristics) associated with attrition when a case first enters the criminal justice system before a forensic interview is conducted. All child sexual abuse incidents reported to police in one jurisdiction of Australia in 2011 were examined. Three case characteristics were found to predict attrition: previous disclosure, abuse frequency and the child complainant’s age. Specifically, cases were more likely to result in attrition when the child had not previously disclosed the abuse to an adult, the abuse was a single incident rather than repeated, and a curvilinear relationship was found for child age. Cases involving children aged 7–12 years were less likely to result in attrition than cases involving younger (0–6 years) and older (13–15 years) children. This information should assist professionals and researchers in developing interventions to reduce the attrition when necessary during this early stage of the criminal justice system.