Evaluation of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program on Sexual Assault Criminal Case Outcomes

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Julie Valentine, Alyssa Lark, Michael Worthington

Purpose:

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effect of a community-based sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program on sexual assault criminal case outcomes in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Research Question:

What are the criminal case outcomes in sexual assault cases with SANE involvement in Salt Lake County?

Background:

In Utah, sexual assault is the only violent crime in which rates are above the national average. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) created a toolkit to measure prosecution outcomes in sexual assault cases when a SANE program exists in a community. It is believed that one outcome of SANE programs is higher prosecution rates, although this outcome has not been evaluated in any large scale. The toolkit was published in 2013 and piloted in six sites in the United States. Salt Lake County is the first site to implement the toolkit outside of the pilot sites. The NIJ hopes multiple sites across the country will utilize the toolkit to create a national database of criminal case outcomes in sexual assault cases.

Methodology:

2241 charts from 2003 – 2011 were reviewed to create a study population meeting all necessary criteria. From the eligible pool of cases, 30 random cases per year were selected, creating 270 random study cases. The cases were divided into their respective law enforcement (LE) agencies. Memorandums of Understanding were established with 11 LE agencies in Salt Lake County. The LE agencies provided suspects’ names for cases referred to the District Attorney (DA). The final criminal case outcome for each of the referred cases was searched through the Utah court docketing system.

Findings:

34% of sexual assault cases from 2003 – 2011 were screened by LE with the DA’s office. The results of criminal case outcomes are as follows: 91% not charged, 3% charged but later dropped, 5% pled or plea bargain reached, 0% trial with acquittal, and 1% trial with conviction. These percentages are compared with other sites. Additionally, qualitative data was obtained as many LE agencies listed why cases were not screened with the DA’s office. Qualitative data is counted and categorized.

Implications and Recommendations:

This research has implications for improving response to sexual assault. These findings have been disseminated to community partners: law enforcement, victim advocates, forensic scientists, and prosecution, as an evaluation of criminal case outcomes in sexual assault cases, leading to positive changes to increase prosecution rates