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Policing and Prosecuting Sexual Assault: Inside the Criminal Justice System

Cassia Spohn and Katharine Tellis
Policing and Prosecuting Sexual Assault: Inside the Criminal Justice System
ISBN: 978-1-62637-024-1
ISBN: 978-1-62637-413-3
2013/246 pages/LC: 2013013659
"An invaluable contribution to the literature on sexual assault case processing. The skillful and highly readable blending of qualitative and quantitative materials underlines the superiority of a mixed methods approach to this area of study."—Rodney F. Kingsnorth, Contemporary Sociology

"[The authors'] focus on the intricate process of decision making in sexual assault cases is thought provoking, troubling as well as inspiring.... This work could be the catalyst to change perceptions within the justice system."—LaDonna Long, Criminal Justice Review

"An important contribution.... Drawing on a wealth of primary data from police and prosecutors, the authors demonstrate the distinction between law on the books and law in action."—Lisa Frohmann, University of Illinois at Chicago

"Outstanding.... I found myself wanting to stop reading in order to call many fellow researchers to make them aware that this book is coming out. The authors' comprehensive assessment will be required in the library of anyone interested in this important topic." —Callie Marie Rennison, University of Colorado Denver


Cassia Spohn and Katharine Tellis assess the criminal justice system's response to sexual assault, exploring the complex dynamics that shape the actions of police and prosecutors.

The authors draw on unparalleled access to Los Angeles detectives, prosecutors, and case files to make sense of the factors that affect the outcomes of sexual assault claims. Following cases from victim report, to police investigation, to the decision to charge—or not to charge—they provide new insights into why shockingly few sexual assault claims lead to an eventual criminal conviction.


Cassia Spohn is professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University. Katharine Tellis is assistant professor of criminal justice and criminalistics at California State University, Los Angeles.


  • Sexual Assault and the Criminal Justice System.
  • Policies and Practices.
  • Detective and Prosecutor Perspectives.
  • Case Attrition and Case Outcomes.
  • False Reports.
  • The Overuse and Misuse of Exceptional Clearance.
  • Intimate Partner Sexual Assault.
  • Taking Sexual Assault Seriously.