King County Sexual Assault Resource Center releases report case outcomes

Report reveals outcomes for 408 sexual assault victims in 2021 backlogged court cases.

The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) nonprofit issued a follow-up On March 6 to the organization’s 2021 Long Wait report, summarizing criminal case outcomes for 408 survivors of sexual assault whose cases were pending in King County Superior Court.

KCSARC is a 501c3 community nonprofit that provides comprehensive advocacy and therapy services to sexual assault survivors and their families in both English and Spanish, as well as prevention education to stop sexual violence from happening in communities throughout King County. In 2023, KCSARC assisted 4,805 individual survivors and their family members. About half of KCSARC‘s clients are reportedly children under 18.

KCSARC’s new report, Navigating Justice, shows that 94 percent of these 408 victims have had their cases resolved over the last three years.

Cases for the remaining 6% of the group of survivors either remain open or involve defendants who have failed to appear in court and are not being actively pursued. According to KCSARC, victims in these unresolved cases have waited an average of almost four years for closure.

“When we issued our Long Wait report, we wanted to inform the system and make sure these victims were prioritized,” said Kate Krug, chief executive officer at KCSARC. “We followed that up with advocacy for resources needed to make that happen. Navigating Justice offers the opportunity for criminal justice system stakeholders to reflect on what is working well, and what gaps remain for survivors seeking justice.”

The new report shows prosecutors brought 67 victims’ cases to trial, 16 percent of the total. Of those 67 victims whose case went to trial, 76 percent saw juries return a guilty verdict.

Another 19 victims (5%) saw the defendant in their case plead guilty as charged.

Charges were dismissed in the cases of 14% of the survivors in the KCSARC report. According to the report, victims waited an average of 807 days before their case was dismissed.

The majority of victims’ cases, what the KSARC reported as 60 percent, were resolved after the defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Two-thirds of this group of victims had defendants originally charged with sex offenses plead to non-sex offenses or plea from felonies to misdemeanors. For 21 percent of this subgroup group of victims, the defendant was originally charged with felony sex offenses but ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor non-sex offense.

“A missed opportunity with plea-downs and dismissals is meaningful interventions, including treatment or rehabilitation for the person who has abused the victim. And with it is the missed opportunity to help reduce chances of further harm,” said Krug in statement.

The KCSARC said that while many survivors report feeling a sense of closure and relief once their case is resolved, many feel the actual harm they experienced has been minimized, exacerbating the self-blame and shame many survivors experience. Safety planning is also more difficult when a sex offense resolves a non-sex offense, because the victim is ineligible for a criminal Sexual Assault Protection Order.

“In our previous Long Wait report, we highlighted the serious nature of the crimes these defendants had been charged with to illustrate the level of harm their victims experienced,” said Krug. “This level of harm has impact across a lifetime. Victims need to know it was not their fault and that the system and community agrees what happened to them was wrong.”

In issuing the Navigating Justice report, KCSARC is calling on system partners to collaborate in reimagining a system that centers practices on victims’ needs and helps restore survivors traumatized by abuse.

According to the KCSARC, this includes:

– Listening and responding to victim input in their own cases, and including the expertise of victim advocates in broader decision-making on policies and procedures that affect survivors.

– Acknowledging the extent and impact of the harm victims have experienced. Hold defendants accountable and seek meaningful interventions, including treatment and rehabilitation when appropriate, for those who abuse others.

– Greater curiosity about whether the process and outcomes are equitable for sexual violence victims, including those from the same marginalized racial and ethnic communities as the person who harmed them

– Partnership in calling on elected leaders for adequate and sustainable resources in the community to ensure sexual assault victims have the support they need in seeking accountability and protection.

“I look forward to my office’s ongoing support of and work with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said in a statement regarding the report. “Victims’ voices need to be heard. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will continue to evaluate each Special Assault case individually and seek just outcomes.”

Manion stated that she is optimistic for our collaborative work, including pushing back on unnecessary court delays and working with the courts to bring into greater focus victim needs.

“We hope takeaways from this report will be a catalyst to bring all system partners together with victim advocates to plan, act and measure the effectiveness of our collective response,” said Krug.

The KCSARC said the 2021 Long Wait report served as an alert and call to action to the King County criminal justice system about the length of time sexual assault victims had been waiting for resolution amid a backlog of cases in King County Superior Court.

The Long Wait report in 2021 showed key data, including:

• The average age of victims was 16, and defendants 39-years-old.

• Many of the 319 defendants had multiple victims.

• 73 percent of charges pending were crimes against children, 38 percent of which were Class A felonies such as Rape of a Child.