Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 33–44 | Cite as

The Impact of Psychological Consequences of Rape on Rape Case Attrition: The Police Perspective

  • Lucy MaddoxEmail author
  • Deborah Lee
  • Chris Barker


This paper examines whether the psychological sequelae of rape relate to rape case attrition by leading police to see the victim as less reliable. A mixed methods approach with two linked studies, one qualitative and one quantitative, was used. In Study 1, the qualitative study, interviews with 12 specialist police officers were analysed using Framework Analysis. In Study 2, the quantitative study, 76 specialist officers completed an online questionnaire to assess the generalisability of Study 1’s findings. In Study 1, officers’ perceptions of victims clustered into three stereotypes, which we label “the real victim”, “the mad discloser”, and “the bad discloser”. Victims who exhibited signs of shame, self-blame, and post-traumatic stress reactions which impeded their ability to give a coherent account of the rape were perceived as less reliable “mad” or “bad” victims. The findings of Study 2 supported these results. Although police interview strategies have improved in recent years, there is evidence that signs of trauma and shame in the victim are sometimes misinterpreted as signs of lying. This may affect attrition by impacting on victim-officer relationships. Further training on recognising trauma and understanding its consequences is recommended both for specialist officers and front-line staff.


Rape Police PTSD Shame Self-blame 



Professor Betsy Stanko and the Metropolitan Police Service Strategic Research Unit helped to set up the project. Thanks to all the participants for their time and helpfulness in speaking about their experiences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical, Educational and Health PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Michael Rutter Centre for Children and Adolescents, Child Care Assessment TeamMaudsley HospitalLondonUK

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