Prosecution of child sexual abuse: Which cases are accepted?

Theodore P. Cross, Edward De Vos, Debra Whitcomb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the relationship of case characteristics, maternal support, and child psychopathology to acceptance of child sexual abuse cases for prosecution. Cases referred to prosecutors' offices over a 1-year period in four urban jurisdictions (N = 431) were examined, and a smaller sample of mothers and children (N = 289) were interviewed as well. Background characteristics of the perpetrator and victim, severity of abuse, and nature of available evidence were all significantly related to acceptance for prosecution. Specific independent predictors of acceptance were victim age, presence of oral-genital abuse, use or threat of force, duration of abuse, and presence of physical or eyewitness evidence. With other variables controlled, maternal support was higher and child internalizing psychopathology lower in accepted cases. The results are interpreted in terms of prosecutors' concern for serving justice and protecting children and their perceptions of their ability to prosecute cases successfully.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-677
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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