The impact of victim-perpetrator relationship, reputation and initial point of resistance on officers' responsibility and authenticity ratings towards hypothetical rape cases

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  • University of West London


Purpose Previous studies suggest that judgments of responsibility and authenticity made towards hypothetical rape cases differ when specific case factors are varied. However, few studies have examined whether police officers exhibit similar variations in judgment. Methods Sixteen vignettes depicting a hypothetical rape scenario were created. Vignettes varied on victim-perpetrator relationship, victim reputation, and initial point of resistance. Police officers from a large police force in the United Kingdom (n = 808) provided judgments of victim and perpetrator responsibility, as well as rape authenticity. Results Officers rated perpetrators as less responsible and gave lower rape authenticity ratings when a partner was the perpetrator, and in ‘late’ resistance scenarios. Officers rated victims as more responsible in ‘bad’ reputation conditions and in ‘late’ resistance conditions. Additional effects of officer sex and receipt of specialist training were also found (i.e., male officers rated the victim as more responsible than female officers), as were several interactions between factors. Conclusions Results suggest that police officers in the UK may judge victims of rape differentially based on extra-legal case factors. The potential impact on the investigation of rape cases is discussed, and a recommendation for thorough and prompt review of specialist and non-specialist training is made.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © 2017


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Early online date4 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Judgments, Objective policing, Police officers, Rape, Rape myths