, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 44-58

Gateway to Reform? Policy Implications of Police Officers’ Attitudes Toward Rape

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Abstract

Research has shown that prosecutors rely more heavily on victim characteristics and other extralegal factors than on criteria set forth by the law, when evaluating the merits of a rape case. Little is known, however, about the factors police officers use when assessing the merits of a rape case. The current study contributes to what is known about police officers’ attitudes toward rape. A survey was administered to 891 sworn police officers in two states in the southeastern United States. The surveys were designed to assess police officers’ acceptance of rape myths. Police officers who accept more rape myths were less likely to believe victims who did not adhere to the stereotyped “genuine victim.” This research contributes to what is known about the factors affecting police officers’ decision-making in rape cases. This study has implications for assessing the effectiveness of rape law reforms, inasmuch as these reforms are conveyed through police work.