3.1 Why Case Attrition?

As discussed in the Foreword, a major concern is that a substantial proportion of sexual violence cases are never prosecuted or are not successfully prosecuted. Research suggests that at one or more points in the system, many – if not most – cases are declined without thorough investigation,   perhaps due to factors such as bias, lack of capacity, or the presence of facts that increase case complexity (e.g., a voluntarily intoxicated victim). This volume suggests procedures for tracking the number of cases dropped at each of the following three stages and for classifying each such case by the reason the it was dropped:

(1) The victim chose not to report the crime to law enforcement;

(2) The police declined the case; or

(3) The prosecutor’s office declined the case.

Tracking the number and percentage of cases declined that fall into each of these categories provides important information for understanding which cases were declined and why, laying the groundwork for reducing these numbers, and assessing implementation efforts to improve them. Each jurisdiction can modify each list as it sees fit.5 The resulting checklist is likely to be most helpful to those entering the data if it is programmed into a computer software program (e.g., through the creation of a dropdown menu) to minimize the effort required to enter the assessments).

The data obtained from these procedures should be relevant for all professionals responding to sexual violence. All partners – including law enforcement and prosecution – should consider the extent to which their actions, as well as those of allied professionals in other agencies, are affecting victim nonreporting. If a partner makes changes to its program, later data will reveal any effect on the outcomes.


5 This list in Exhibit 3-1 contains a large number of reasons for victim non-reporting. Each jurisdiction, based on the experience of health and victim support partners, may consider narrowing down this list to fewer factors.