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Perception of Elder Sexual Abuse in the Courtroom

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 15 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 678-698
Emily C. Hodell; Jonathan M. Golding; John A. Yozwiak; Gregory S. Bradshaw; Terri L. Kinstle; Dorothy F. Marsil
Date Published
June 2009
21 pages
This study explored the perceptions of elder sexual maltreatment in the courtroom providing evidence on how elders are perceived in this context.
Using fictional criminal trial summaries for two cases of elder sexual maltreatment (ESM), it appears that mock jurors were willing to only attribute some degree of believability to an elder alleged victim of sexual assault and that this believability translated into guilty verdicts only about 25 percent to 30 percent of the time, which is about half as often as elder physical abuse. The study also demonstrated that women were consistently more pro-prosecution in their ratings and verdicts compared with men. These results were evident in both experiments. Although prior research provides some information about elderly maltreatment (EM) cases, jurors may perceive cases of elderly sexual maltreatment (ESM) differently from other types of EM because of the nature of sexual crimes within this special population. This study explored mock juror perceptions of ESM. In Experiment 1, 118 participants read a fictional criminal trial summary of an ESM case in which a 76-year old woman was allegedly abused by either her son or a neighbor. In Experiment 2, consisting of 360, the ESM occurred in either a nursing home or the elder's home and the alleged perpetrator was either her son or a nursing home worker. Both experiments were designed to investigate variables that were basic characteristics of all ESM cases: participant gender, defendant-victim relationship, and victimization location. Table, figure, appendixes, and references