Why sexual assault is hard to prosecute

Less than 1% of sexual assaults end in conviction — a fact that’s relevant to Harvey Weinstein’s ongoing trial. Here's why.

As with sexual assault, rape is defined differently in each state

Harvey Weinstein could spend the rest of his life in prison if he's convicted of sexual assault charges. The defense only needs one juror, one juror to hold out and say, “You know what? I'm not so sure that they proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Despite high-profile cases getting national attention with the rise of the #MeToo movement, sexual assault remains very difficult to prosecute. Less than 1% of sexual assaults end in a conviction according to U.S. Justice Dept. stats.

The reason many didn't come forward

“We used to think of a rape in many situations as kind of a stranger on stranger crime. Neither of them knew each other. Someone breaks into their house and they're forcibly raped. And then we started to realize that that's not the only way a sex crime can happen. A sex crime can happen on a date, and it can happen in a marriage. It can happen in a relationship. And so now definitely the prosecutors’ offices are being more open to various types of crimes within that realm”, Julie Rendelman, former New York prosecutor tells Brut.

Rape is also the most underreported crime

63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police in line with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. More than 80 women have publicly accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The New York case centers on 2 women — former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, and an unnamed woman who alleges he raped her in 2013. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denies any non-consensual sexual relations. Weinstein also faces sex assault charges in Los Angeles. Rendelman has over 20 years of legal experience. She says prosecutors now look at sexual crimes more broadly.