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Impact of Rape Reform Legislation in Six Major Urban Jurisdictions in the United States, 1970-1985 (ICPSR 6923) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

Despite the fact that most states enacted rape reform legislation by the mid-1980s, empirical research on the effect of these laws was conducted in only four states and for a limited time span following the reform. The purpose of this study was to provide both increased breadth and depth of information about the effect of the rape law changes and the legal issues that surround them. Statistical data on all rape cases between 1970 and 1985 in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, were collected from court records. Monthly time-series analyses were used to assess the impact of the reforms on rape reporting, indictments, convictions, incarcerations, and sentences. The study also sought to determine if particular changes, or particular combinations of changes, affected the case processing and disposition of sexual assault cases and whether the effect of the reforms varied with the comprehensiveness of the changes. In each jurisdiction, data were collected on all forcible rape cases for which an indictment or information was filed. In addition to forcible rape, other felony sexual assaults that did not involve children were included. The names and definitions of these crimes varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To compare the pattern of rape reports with general crime trends, reports of robbery and felony assaults during the same general time period were also obtained from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation when available. For the adjudicated case data (Parts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11), variables include month and year of offense, indictment, disposition, four most serious offenses charged, total number of charges indicted, four most serious conviction charges, total number of conviction charges, type of disposition, type of sentence, and maximum jail or prison sentence. The time series data (Parts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12) provide year and month of indictment, total indictments for rape only and for all sex offenses, total convictions and incarcerations for all rape cases in the month, for those on the original rape charge, for all sex offenses in the month, and for those on the original sex offense charge, percents for each indictment, conviction, and incarceration category, the average maximum sentence for each incarceration category, and total police reports of forcible rape in the month. Interviews were also conducted in each site with judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, and this information is presented in Part 13. These interviewees were asked to rate the importance of various types of evidence in sexual assault cases and to respond to a series of six hypothetical cases in which evidence of the victim's past sexual history was at issue. Respondents were also presented with a hypothetical case for which some factors were varied to create 12 different scenarios, and they were asked to make a set of judgments about each. Interview data also include respondent's title, sex, race, age, number of years in office, and whether the respondent was in office before and/or after the reform.

Access Notes

Dataset(s)

WARNING: Because this study has many datasets, the download all files option has been suppressed, and you will need to download one dataset at a time.

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Atlanta Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (2.7 MB)
DS2:  Atlanta Time Series Data - Download All Files (2 MB)
DS3:  Chicago Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (3.5 MB)
DS4:  Chicago Time Series Data - Download All Files (2.1 MB)
DS5:  Detroit Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (3.4 MB)
DS6:  Detroit Time Series Data - Download All Files (2.1 MB)
DS7:  Houston Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (2.8 MB)
DS8:  Houston Time Series Data - Download All Files (2 MB)
DS9:  Philadelphia Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (3.7 MB)
DS10:  Philadelphia Time Series Data - Download All Files (2 MB)
DS11:  Washington, DC, Adjudicated Cases Data - Download All Files (2.4 MB)
DS12:  Washington, DC, Time Series Data - Download All Files (2 MB)
DS13:  Interview Data - Download All Files (2.4 MB)

Study Description

Citation

Horney, Julie, and Cassia Spohn. Impact of Rape Reform Legislation in Six Major Urban Jurisdictions in the United States, 1970-1985. ICPSR06923-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1998. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06923.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (85-IJ-CX-0048 and SES-8508323)
  • National Science Foundation

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   case processing, convictions (law), disposition (legal), law reform, rape, rape statistics, sentencing, sexual assault

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1970--1985

Date of Collection:  

  • 1985--1986

Unit of Observation:   (1) Adjudicated cases data: the rape case, (2) Time series data: month and year of indictment, and (3) interview data: individuals.

Universe:   All rape cases in the United States, prior to and after legislative reforms.

Data Types:   event/transaction data, aggregate data, and survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The user guide, codebook, and data collection instrument are provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided in the README file on the diskette version of this study and through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   The overall goal of the rape reform movement begun in the early 1970s was to treat rape like other crimes by shifting the legal inquiry from the behavior or reputation of the victim to the unlawful acts of the offender. Rape law reform was urged as a method to encourage more victims to report rapes and to cooperate with criminal justice officials in prosecuting rapists. By the mid-1980s, nearly all states had enacted rape reform legislation. Reform statutes enacted by the states varied in comprehensiveness and encompassed a broad range of reforms. The most common changes were: (1) redefining rape and replacing the single crime of rape with a series of graded offenses defined by the presence or absence of aggravating conditions, (2) changing the consent standards by eliminating the requirement that the victim physically resist her attacker, (3) eliminating the requirement that the victim's testimony be corroborated, and (4) placing restrictions on the introduction of evidence regarding the victim's prior sexual conduct. Reformers expected that enacting these laws would reduce both the skepticism of criminal justice officials toward the claims of rape victims and their reliance on extralegal considerations in decision-making. They anticipated that the reforms ultimately would lead to an increase in the number of reports of rape and would make arrest, prosecution, and conviction for rape more likely. Despite the fact that most states enacted rape law reforms, empirical research on the effect of these laws was conducted in only four states and for a limited time span following the reform. The purpose of this study was to provide both increased breadth and depth of information about the effect of the rape law changes and the legal issues that surround them. Breadth was provided by an examination of the impact of the laws on the processing and disposition of rape cases in six major jurisdictions (Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC, Houston, and Philadelphia) from 1970 to 1985. The purpose in selecting these six jurisdictions was to determine if particular changes, or particular combinations of changes, affected the case processing and disposition of sexual assault cases and whether the effect of the reforms varied with the comprehensiveness of the changes. Depth was provided by supplementing these longitudinal data with information from interviews with criminal justice personnel.

Study Design:   In each jurisdiction, data were collected from court records on all forcible rape cases for which information or indictments were filed for an extended time before and after the changes in the laws. In addition to forcible rape, other felony sexual assaults that did not involve children were included. The names and definitions of these crimes varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Separate analyses were performed for rape and for total sex offenses. When rape law reforms included definitional changes, the closest equivalent crimes were selected for the analysis of rapes after the legal changes. For four sites, the data collected covered a 14-year period, from 1970 through 1985. For Washington, DC, the analysis started with 1973 because the Superior Court of the District of Columbia was given jurisdiction over felony cases beginning that year. The Houston analysis ends in August 1982 because of problems with lost data after that point. The number of months analyzed before and after the reforms varied somewhat, depending on when the law was reformed in each state. To compare the pattern of rape reports with general crime trends, reports of robbery and felony assaults during the same general time period were obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports when available. Monthly time-series analyses were performed to assess the impact of the reforms on rape reporting, indictments, convictions, incarcerations, and sentencing. Interviews were also conducted in each site with judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to obtain their attitudes toward evidence in sexual assault cases. Standardized interview schedules asked the interviewees to rate the importance of various types of evidence in sexual assault cases and to respond to a series of six hypothetical cases in which evidence of the victim's past sexual history was at issue. Respondents were also presented with a hypothetical case for which some factors were varied to create 12 different scenarios, presented in random order, and they were asked to make a set of judgments about each.

Sample:   (1) Six jurisdictions were chosen to represent various types of law reforms enacted in states across the country: Detroit and Chicago (strong reforms), Philadelphia and Houston (moderate), and Atlanta and Washington, DC (weak). (2) For the interview data, a purposive sample of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders was chosen in each jurisdiction.

Data Source:

(1) Adjudicated cases data from official court records (2) data on rapes, burglaries, and assaults reported to the police from the Uniform Crime Reports, (3) criminal justice personnel's attitudes toward evidence in sexual assault cases from interviews

Description of Variables:   For the adjudicated case data, the following information was coded: month and year of offense, indictment, disposition, four most serious offenses charged, total number of charges indicted, four most serious conviction charges, total number of conviction charges, type of disposition (dismissal, guilty plea, guilty or not guilty verdict, verdict by judge or jury), type of sentence (probation, jail, prison, other), and maximum jail or prison sentence. The time series data provide year and month of indictment, total indictments for rape only and for all sex offenses, total convictions and incarcerations for all rape cases in the month, for those on the original rape charge, for all sex offenses in the month, and for those on the original sex offense charge, percents for each indictment, conviction, and incarceration category, the average maximum sentence for each incarceration category, and total police reports of forcible rape in the month. Total reports of burglary and assault are also provided for Detroit and Houston. Interview data include respondent's title, sex, race, age, number of years in office, and whether the respondent was in office before and/or after the reform. Responses to six hypothetical cases are provided regarding whether sexual history evidence should be admitted. Respondents were also asked to rate various types of evidence as irrelevant, helpful, important, or essential to the decision to file charges or to the outcome of a jury trial. Finally, responses to the 12 hypothetical case scenarios included the expected disposition, the likelihood of a hearing on sexual history evidence, the likelihood that sexual history evidence would be admitted, the likely result of a jury trial, and the expected sentence in years.

Response Rates:   Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   Several Likert-type scales were used for the interview data.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File CB6923.ALL was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2006-03-30 File CB6923.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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