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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Akehurst L, Kohnken G, Vrij A, Bull R (1996) Lay persons’ and police officers’ beliefs regarding deceptive behaviour. Appl Cognit Psychol 10:461–471
American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edn. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC
Barker C, Pistrang N (2005) Quality criteria under methodological pluralism: implications for conducting and evaluating research. Am J Community Psychol 35:201–212
Brownmiller S (1975) Against our will. Men, women and rape… a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. Penguin, Harmondsworth
Burgess AW, Holmstrom LL (1974a) Rape trauma syndrome. Am J Psychiatry 131:981–985
Burgess AW, Holmstrom LL (1974b) Rape: victims of crisis. Brady, US
Burt MR (1980) Cultural myths and support for rape. J Pers Soc Psychol 38:217–230
DePaulo BM, Lindsay JJ, Malone BE, Muhlenbruck L, Charlton K, Cooper H (2003) Cues to deception. Psychol Bull 129:74–118
Faravelli C, Giugni A, Salvatori S, Ricca V (2004) Psychopathology after rape. Am J Psychiatry 161:1483–1485
Figley CR (1995) Compassion fatigue: coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. Brunner/Mazel, New York
Global Detection Research Team (2006) A world of lies. J Cross Cult Psychol 37:60–74
Hatz JL, Bourgeois (2010) Anger as a cue to truthfulness. J Exp Soc Psychol 46:680–683
Kaufmann G, Drevland GCB, Wessel E, Overskeid G, Magnussen S (2003) The importance of being earnest: displayed emotions and witness credibility. Appl Cognit Psychol 17:21–34
Kelly L, Lovett J, Regan L (2005) A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases. Home Office, London (Research Study 293)
Kilpatrick DG, Saunders BE, Veronen LJ, Best CL, Von JM (1987) Criminal victimization: lifetime prevalence, reporting to police, and psychological impact. Crime Delinquen 33:479–489
Krulewitz JE, Payne EJ (1978) Attributions about rape: effects of rapist force, observer sex, and sex role attitudes. J Appl Soc Psychol 8:291–305
Lee DA, Scragg P, Turner SW (2001) The role of shame and guilt in traumatic events: a clinical model of shame-based and guilt-based PTSD. Br J Med Psychol 74:451–466
Lees S, Gregory J (1996) Attrition in rape and sexual assault cases. Br J Criminol 36(1):1–17
Maddox, L., Lee, D.A., & Barker, C. (2010). Police empathy and victim PTSD as potential factors in rape case attrition. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s11896-010-9075-6
Pistrang N, Barker C (in press) Varieties of qualitative research: a pragmatic approach to selecting methods. In: Cooper H (ed) APA handbook of research methods in psychology. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC
Pope C, Ziebland S, Mays N (2000) Qualitative research in health care: analysing qualitative data. Br Med J 320:114–116
Porter S, ten Brinke (2009) Dangerous decisions: a theoretical framework for understanding how judges assess credibility in the courtroom. Legal and Criminological Psychology 14:119–134
Porter S, Woodworth M, Birt AR (2000) Truth, lies and videotape: an investigation of the ability of federal parole officers to detect deception. Law Hum Behav 24:643–658
Rickert VI, Wiemann CM, Vaughan RD (2005) Disclosure of date/acquaintance rape: who reports and when. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 18:17–24
Ritchie J, Spencer L (1994) Qualitative data analysis. In: Burgess RG (ed) Analyzing qualitative data. Routledge, London, pp 173–194
Smith JA (1995) Semi-structured interviewing and qualitative analysis. In: Smith JA, Harre R, Van Langenhove L (eds) Rethinking methods in psychology. Sage, London
Smith JA (2008) Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to research methods, 2nd edn. Sage, London
Stanko B, Osborn D, Paddick B (2005) A review of rape investigation in the Metropolitan Police Service. Territorial Policing, Project Sapphire and the Directorate of Strategic Development, London
Temkin J (1997) Plus Ca change. Reporting Rape in the 1900s. Br J Criminol 37(4):507–528
Winkel F, Koppelaar L (1991) Rape victims’ style of self-presentation and secondary victimisation by the environment. J Interpers Violence 6:29–40
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Maddox, L., Lee, D. & Barker, C. The Impact of Psychological Consequences of Rape on Rape Case Attrition: The Police Perspective. J Police Crim Psych 27, 33–44 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-011-9092-0