Factors Affecting the Prosecution of Rape: A Case Study of Travis County, Texas




Weninger, Robert A.

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Virginia Law Review


This article is the product of a field study of reports, complaints, and prosecutions of forcible rape in Travis County, Texas, during 1970-1976. After describing the functioning of local rape laws and enforcement mechanism, the discussion reports the impact of various factual aspects of rape allegations upon their movement through successive stages of prosecution prior to trial. Three dimensional contingency tables present the results of simultaneously cross-tabulating pairs of these variables against each other. Analysis of the data in these tables illuminates how these factors affected the probability of an indictment in rape prosecutions.

Prosecutors form their decisions at pretrial stages in part on their expectations of what jurors will do in given situations. Therefore, to understand the decision to charge one also must examine factors affecting trials. Part I presents an overview of rape trials conducted in Travis County during the period studied and explores the practices concerning the admission of certain evidence in those trials. It also describes certain pretrial proceedings. Part II outlines the variables selected for statistical analysis of the charging decision - assailant force, victim resistance, medical corroboration, the relationship between the parties, and the nature of their encounter before the attack. The discussion then investigates the varying effects these factors have on prosecution.



Rape, Texas, Prosecution


64 Va. L. Rev. 357