Sexual assault and abuse committed against family members: An analysis of 1342 legal outcomes and their motivations

Alberto Blandino, Lidia Maggioni, Francesca Chiaffarino, Fabio Parazzini, Daniele Capano, Elena Maria Florio, Manuela Margherita, Gian Marco Bertelle, Lorenzo Franceschetti, Alberto Amadasi, Giulia Vignali, Barbara Ciprandi, Graziano Domenico Luigi Crudele, Vera Gloria Merelli, Federica Collini, Enrico Angelo Muccino, Patrizio Nicolò, Giussy Barbara, Alessandra Kustermann, Cristina CattaneoAndrea Gentilomo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Over the past years medical centres specifically addressed in gender-based violence have developed protocols for the collections of evidence useful in the courtroom, including accurate documentation of physical and psychological states of the victim and collection of samples. Previous studies showed an association between documented physical trauma and conviction but unfortunately, few studies in the recent literature analysed the factors that influence the legal outcome and final judgement. The present study focused on the elements that appeared of significance in the legal outcome, including medico-legal evaluation, source of the crime report and circumstance of the assault. Methods It was conducted a retrospective analysis of all the judgments issued by the Public Prosecutor's Office at a Court of a Metropolitan Italian city regarding sexual and domestic violence, from January 1st 2011 to 31st December 31st 2015. Examination regarded the demographic information of the victim and of the defendant, information on the crime, the circumstances of the aggression and medical information retrieved. Sentences were subsequently divided into two categories based on the legal outcome (conviction vs acquittal) and the different characteristics of the two sub-populations were compared to verify if there were variables significantly associated to the judge's final judgment. Results Over the 5 years taken into consideration, there have been 1342 verdicts regarding crimes of sexual violence (374 cases) and regarding abuses against family members or cohabitants (875): Other 93 cases regarded both sexual violence and abuse. 66.3% ended in conviction of the offender and 33.7% in acquittal of the accused. Cases of conviction were more frequent when they involved: Use of a weapon by the assailant, as well as if the assailant had a criminal record and had a history of drug abuse or other addictions; duration of proceeding less 22 months and a civil party involved; presence of clinical documentation together with other deposition in addition to victim's deposition; also frequent episodes of violence and application of precautionary measures were associated to conviction. Conclusions Many factors seem able to influence the judge's judgment, although clearly each case must be singularly evaluated. The mere presence of medical documentation, without the support of other sources of evidence, such as the victim's statement or further declarations, however, is almost always not definitive for the verdict. Despite so, in cases where there are multiple sources of evidence, clinical documentation can provide useful elements and can give clues on the consistency between the history told and injuries observed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0253980
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6 June
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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