Fellow: Lauren DaSilva
Grant Year: 2019
Location: Monterey County, California, United States
Organization: Monterey County Rape Crisis Center
Project Title: Improving Outcomes for Sexual Assault Survivors and Their Cases in the Criminal Justice System
Project Summary: In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. While sexual violence impacts millions of people in the United States every year, sexual assault is the most under-reported violent crime—230 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement. Of those 230 reports to law enforcement, 46 lead to an arrest, 9 are forwarded to prosecutors, and 5 cases result in a felony conviction. There are countless research studies that analyze why survivors of sexual violence do not report sexual assault to law enforcement—because of a belief that it is a personal matter, fear of retaliation, and a belief that police will not do anything to help. The Monterey County Rape Crisis Center (MCRCC) understands survivors’ reasons for not reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement through experience and this understanding is supported by research. Conversely, there is very little research about what happens to those 230 reports of sexual violence that result in only five felony convictions.
Thus, MCRCC will advocate for the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to mandate the creation and implementation of a Sexual Violence Task Force by July 2020 that investigates all reported cases of sexual violence and shepherds them through the criminal justice system. This project intends to conduct a systematic inquiry into the black box of the criminal justice system to improve the way: 1) survivors are treated; 2) sexual assault investigations are conducted; 3) the District Attorney’s Office tries cases; and 4) perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable. MCRCC will conduct a qualitative research study examining the life of 30-50 sexual violence cases through the criminal justice system and utilize findings to frame and inform advocacy strategies to improve the criminal justice system and increase prosecution of sexual violence in Monterey County. The establishment of a Sexual Violence Task Force will ensure that more than 230 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement and are effectively shepherded through the entire judicial process, resulting in an increase in convictions of offenders.