Beyond Belief?:Police, Rape and Women’s Credibility
AbstractThis article reviews issues concerning perceptions of women’s credibility in the context of police responses to sexual assault complainants. It is based on both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from detailed analysis of police rape and sexual assault files. Particular attention is paid to identification of the principal factors affecting police perceptions of rape complainants, addressing such issues as demeanour, intoxication and concealment. Problems arising from the misinterpretation of significant ‘cues’ are identified, and consideration given to possible ways in which miscommunication between rape complainants and police officers occurs. The article argues that many rape complainants must still battle to gain credibility in the eyes of some police investigative officers, and that stereotypically based judgements continue to impact negatively on police perceptions and decision making. The overall aim of the article is to prompt critical, constructive evaluation of police culture and practice in order to enhance the quality of police responses to victims of sexual violence and abuse.