The victim as a means to an end: Detective decision making in a simulated investigation of attempted rape

E.C. Barrett, C. Hamilton-Giachritsis

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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Police decision making in rape cases is poorly understood, despite high levels of attrition for rape and sexual assault cases, with up to 75% lost at the investigation stage. A qualitative analysis was undertaken of the comments of 22 British detectives as they conducted a 'virtual investigation' of an allegation of attempted rape of an adult woman. Material was 'drip fed' to detectives in a simulation exercise, and officers were asked to express their thoughts as they processed each document in the 'investigation' to evaluate detective decision making. It was anticipated that this method would shed light both on the dynamic nature of detectives' thinking during an investigation and on variations in perception of the same material by different officers. It was found that the alleged rape victim was perceived primarily as a source of information to progress enquiries, with her welfare needs taking second place. Although some police officers revealed sceptical attitudes to rape allegations, the investigative approach that all took was professional and pragmatic, 'investigating' the report as true and focusing on corroborating the victim's account. The balance between the needs of the victim and the needs of the investigation is discussed, with implications for rape survivor support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-218
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • police decision making; victim perception; rape; investigation; qualitative;


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