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Effect of Sexual Stratification by Race on Official Reactions to Rape

NCJ Number
72511
Journal
American Sociological Review Volume: 45 Issue: 5 Dated: (October 1980) Pages: 842-854
Author(s)
G D LaFree
Date Published
1980
Length
13 pages
Annotation
This study examines the effect of race composition on processing decisions--from case report to final disposition--for 881 sexual assaults in a large, midwestern city.
Abstract
Police, prosecution, and court records provided data on defendant and victim demographic characteristics. Given the history of sexual stratification by race in this country, the racial composition of the victim defendant dyad-and not the individual race of either offender or victim--is the most important racial consideration in processing decisions. Less than 10 percent of the 881 defendants received sentences that included incarceration; only 11 (1.2 percent) of the cases involved white offenders and black victims. When cases were analyzed from initial report to final sentencing, the percentage of black intraracial assaults declined; the percentage of white intraracial assaults remained relatively constant; and the percentage of cases involving black suspects and white victims steadily increased. Black men accused of assaulting black women accounted for 45 percent of all reported cases, but for only 26 percent of all men sentenced to the State penitentiary and for only 17 percent of all men who received sentences of 6 or more years. By contrast, black men accused of assaulting white women accounted for 23 percent of all rapes, but 45 percent of all those sent to the penitentiary and for 50 percent of all who received sentences of 6 or more years. A stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that, compared toother defendants, black men who assaulted white women received more serious charges and longer sentences; they were more likely to have their cases filed as felonies, receive executed sentences, and be incarcerated in the State pentientiary. At the same time, black men who asaulted white women were no more likely than other suspects to be arrested or found guilty, because the racial variable applies to the seriousness of the sanction imposed; it does not address the question of whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. Tabular data and 50 references are appended. (Author abstract modified).