Attrition in the justice system – a Sankey Diagram

Sarah Habershon
July 8, 2016

I find learning easiest and most fun when I use real projects to put my learning into practice. As I get more familiar with D3, I’m developing a series of infographics using my learning exercises to visualize real data about something meaningful.
This week, it’s justice for victims of sexual assault, using a Sankey Diagram.
Recently, I read the published victim impact statement of a woman who was raped on an American university campus last year.
I highly recommend you read it too.
The statement details the horrific, protracted process this woman had to endure in order to see her rapist prosecuted in court, only to see him sentenced to a paltry six months on three counts of sexually assaulting her.
Outrage over the sentencing went viral, prompting an enormous backlash and a global discussion about the case. Much of the conversation was focused on the language of rape culture, race, privilege and revictimisation in the court system. I wanted to contribute something meaningful to the discussion, using New Zealand data, while the issue of justice for victims of sexual violence is fresh in the public consciousness.
In a Family Violence Clearinghouse data summary, I found an attrition study by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs that shows how few sexual violence cases result in a conviction and the number of cases that exit the system at each off-ramp.
A Sankey diagram was the perfect way to express this data, and prompt people to consider how the low conviction rate for reported incidents contributes to the decision 91% of victims make to never report their assault.
This is what the Family Violence Clearinghouse had to say about the data:
The aim of this study was to describe attrition in the criminal justice system in relation to adult sexual violence. Understanding the rates of attrition and the reasons for attrition was considered an important first step towards improving policy and practice so that attrition is minimised and the outcomes for victims are improved.
I used the D3 Sankey plugin to make the diagram, which I then exported as an SVG and put into Adobe Indesign.
Here’s the result.

sexual violence

Click here for pdf version
In my next blog, I’ll write about the process of formatting data for use with the D3 Sankey plugin, and the formatting options for the diagram that I adjusted to allow values to exit the system.
Data is beautiful – Sarah
Sarah blogs about how data can be made aesthetic at as well as informative

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