Carol E. Tracy Honored by the American Society of Criminology

Tracy accepts the President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice on 25th Anniversary of Leading the Women’s Law Project

This evening, the Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy will accept the prestigious President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice from the American Society of Criminology at their annual conference in Washington, DC. By coincidence, the ceremony takes place on Tracy’s 25th anniversary leading the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest legal center devoted to the rights of women and girls in Pennsylvania.

Previous award recipients include Congressman John Lewis (2013) and renowned journalist Linda Greenhouse (2011).

Carol. E. Tracy is the recipient of the 2015 President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice from the American Society of Criminology.

Carol. E. Tracy is the recipient of the 2015 President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice from the American Society of Criminology.

Candace Kruttschnitt, president of the American Society of Criminologists, said she was “gobsmacked” by Tracy’s work to improve police response to rape and advocacy for more accurate national sex crime data.

“She’s had an enormous impact on our field,” said Kruttschnitt, “by not only making police departments more cognizant and making sure they investigate these cases, but also because she was instrumental in getting the old-fashioned, out-of-date definition of rape changed, which means that everyone in the country is going to have more accurate data on sex crimes.”

Tracy has been calling for better institutional response to sex crimes for more than forty years. In 1973, as an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania, she led a sit-in demanding a better response to a string of alleged rapes on campus. When she and other advocates met with the director of public safety about the issue, he advised them not to wear “provocative” clothes.

In 1983, Tracy was director of the Women’s Center on Penn’s campus when she learned a student was gang raped at a fraternity house. Tracy was a key whistleblower in the case, famously documented by journalist Mark Bowden in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Students protesting sexual assault at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo via The Daily Pennsylvanian)

Students protesting sexual assault at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo via The Daily Pennsylvanian)

Later, as an attorney, Tracy led a campaign to reform how the FBI counts sex crimes. In the late 1990s, media exposes revealed that the Philadelphia Police Department was shelving one out of every three rape complaints. Tracy, by then Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project, led reform at the police department, a project that continues today through an unprecedented annual audit of open Special Victims Unit cases.

In the wake of discovering the failure of the Philadelphia police department, Tracy traced the problem of undercounting reported rapes all the way up to the FBI, which was using the same definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Reporting data since the system was established in 1929. Tracy and Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson at the Women’s Law Project led a 10-year campaign, including testifying before Congress, calling on the FBI to update the definition of rape to comport with modern understanding of the crime. The FBI updated the definition of rape in 2012.

Tracy is in Washington, DC to accept her award at the annual conference of the American Society of Criminology, where the theme of the year is The Politics of Crime & Justice. This recognition comes on the heels of Fromson’s recent 20/20 Vision Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence.

In further recognition of this work, Tracy is featured in The Hunting Ground, the new documentary examining the widespread failure of college administrators to adequately adjudicate sexual assault allegations. The film will premiere on CNN on Sunday, November 22 at 8pm EST.

For more information or to request a interview with Carol Tracy, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org. 

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About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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