Criminal justice outcomes of prosecution of child sexual abuse: A case flow analysis

Theodore P. Cross, Debra Whitcomb, Edward De Vos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the progress and disposition of child sexual abuse cases referred for prosecution in four urban jurisdictions. Most cases were accepted for prosecution. The vast majority of cases carried forward for prosecution resulted in guilty pleas. Only 9% of the total sample went to trial. A majority of the small number that went to trial were convicted. Over 3 4 of those convicted were incarcerated. The rate at which cases were carried forward for prosecution and convicted was comparable to that of a national sample of felony arrests overall, but child sexual abuse cases were more likely to go to trial (p < .005) and received more severe sentences (p < .005). Our results are strikingly consistent with those from previous studies of prosecution of child sexual abuse. A new understanding of prosecution of child sexual abuse is recommended that takes into account the large proportion of cases that do not go to trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1442
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Criminal justice
  • Field-based research
  • Prosecution
  • Sentencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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