The principal role and function of the criminal justice system is to ensure that justice is served to every citizen of the nation. Unfortunately, recent evidence reveals that the criminal justice system is increasingly failing victims of sexual abuse. Being the primary institution responsible for responding to sexually related offenses, victims of sex crimes face a lot of challenges in seeking justice.
Nancy Thoennes and Patricia Tjaden analyzed results from a National Violence against Women Survey and established that only 19.1 % of women who have been sexually abused have reported the crime to the relevant authorities. The same study revealed that sexual abuse report cases are significantly lower than those for other types of crimes.
The criminal justice system is also failing victims of sexual abuse through its ineffectiveness in the prosecution of cases. Although the government has instituted several reforms within the criminal justice that are meant to respond to the victims of sexual abuse needs, these reforms have had limited success. When victims report sexual abuse to the justice system, they are placed in a much-compromised position. This is mainly because of two interrelated aspects.
The first one relates to the nature of the abuse. In many occasions, victims are sexually abused in private and consequently, the victim is the only witness. In addition, many victims usually take a lot of time before reporting the crime, and when they do so, the case rest on credibility.
The second aspect relates to the entrenchment across the society regarding stereotypes and misconceptions about survivors and victims of sexual abuse. Some societies believe that women occasionally fantasize about sexual abuse and that most of them are primarily responsible for their sexual abuse. Unfortunately, these misconceptions infiltrate the criminal justice system. The two aspects, when combined, present a set of unique difficulties and challenges in the processing and prosecution of cases.
In addition to this, there are various consequences that come with disclosure. Some victims are shunned by the community and even their family members after reporting the crime. There is also the aspect of media attention. Some court cases attract a lot of media attention that may be uncomfortable for the sexual assault victims. Victims also face the daunting aspect of facing the accused in court, relieving the abuse during cross-examination and the possibility of being discredited before the public.