The effect of offender and victim characteristics on sexual assault case processing decisions

Cassia Spohn, Jeffrey Spears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Previous research testing the sexual stratification hypothesis has demonstrated that the defendant's race interacts with the victim's race to produce harsher sentences for blacks who sexually assault whites. Research also has demonstrated that victim characteristics affect outcomes of sexual assault cases. We use data on defendants bound over for trial in Detroit Recorder's Court to build on and extend this research. We examine the effect of the racial makeup of the offender/victim pair on a series of sexual assault case outcomes, and we test for interaction between offender/victim race, the relationship between the victim and the offender, and evidence of risk-taking behavior by the victim. Our results show that sexual assaults involving black men and white women are not always treated more harshly than other types of assaults. We conclude that the sexual stratification hypothesis must be modified to account for the role of factors other than the racial composition of the offender/victim pair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-679
Number of pages31
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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