Police perceptions of rape victims and the impact on case decision making: A systematic review

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Abstract

Police officers are frequently perceived to hold negative attitudes about rape victims. The aim of this systematic review is to: (1) synthesise the current literature on police officers' attributions of rape victim blame, assessments of rape victim credibility, and rape myth acceptance; and, (2) examine the evidence that holding these attitudes impacts on police investigative decision making in rape cases. Twenty-four articles published between 2000 and 2016 were included following a systematic search of the available literature. The findings highlight that some police officers do hold problematic attitudes about rape victims e.g., blame, rape myth acceptance, although they are frequently noted to be at a low level. Furthermore, characteristics of the victim, e.g., alcohol intoxication and emotional expression, can affect attributions of victim credibility. Assessments of victim credibility were related to police investigative decision making e.g., recommendations to charge the perpetrator, perceptions of guilt. However, the impact of rape victim blaming and rape myth acceptance is less clear. Given that the literature was predominantly vignette-based, it is unclear how these judgements have an impact in real rape investigations.

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Sleath, E., & Bull, R. (2017, May 1). Police perceptions of rape victims and the impact on case decision making: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.02.003

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