Catholic University Law Review


What do sexual assault victims and women charged with prostitution have in common? Both are processed through a criminal justice system where legal actors assess their claims of victimization and either provide or deny resources and recognition in response to those claims. Ideal victim theory posits that not all victims’ claims are treated equally due to static factors such as personal characteristics or case facts. Professor Corrigan and Professor Shdaimah present the Arena of Intelligibility, an original analytical tool developed from their empirical data, to more effectively explain case outcomes for women affected by sexual crimes.

The Arena explains criminal case outcomes as the result of dynamic processes and relationships between and among criminal justice personnel and would-be victims. Such outcomes are not solely the result of sociodemographic factors, but also reflect personal and institutional beliefs, attitudes, and priorities. After describing the Arena, the authors demonstrate how intelligibility is constructed by analyzing data from their studies in three domains: women’s responses to questioning, demonstrations of compliance, and representations of trauma. Graphic illustrations “map” women in each domain to demonstrate their movement toward (or away from) resources and recognition as their cases progress.