Impact of a Training Programme on Police Attitudes Towards Victims of Rape: a Randomised Controlled Trial

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McKee, Zoe 
Mueller-Johnson, Katrin 
Strang, Heather 

Abstract: Research Question: Does an in-service training programme designed to address the attitudes of student officers, uniformed response officers and specialist rape crime investigators towards victims of rape change their perspective on adult victims, both male and female, who report rape offences? Data Police officers from four separate policing roles completed questionnaires designed to measure their attitudes towards victims of rape. The questions were already validated and used four specific subscales: ‘Asked for it’, ‘Didn’t mean to’, ‘It wasn’t really rape’ and ‘S/he lied’. Two questionnaires, one focused on male victims and one on females, were administered at different points in time. Methods: This randomised controlled trial used a block design, randomly assigning eligible police officers to treatment and control conditions within each of four groups. Participants were grouped as rape detectives (N = 40), uniformed response officers in urban areas (N = 50); uniformed response officers in rural areas (N = 50) and student officers (N = 53). Officers in the treatment condition undertook a bespoke training programme, based on an online College of Policing e-learning programme, enhanced with audio and video content, discussion groups and short online webinar sessions delivered by a psychologist specialising in sexual offending. Both groups were surveyed before and after the treatment group was trained. Findings: The training programme resulted in positive attitude changes towards male and female rape victims when responses are combined across all four police groups (but not within all groups separately) compared with the attitudes of those who did not undertake the training. Effects were found for both levels of rape myth acceptance and assessment of victim credibility. The effect was largest for the subscales ‘S/he lied’ and ‘it wasn’t really rape’. Training had more effect on attitudes towards female victims than towards males and more effect on uniformed response officers than on other categories of officers. Conclusion: The use of this mixed online webinar and in-person discussion group training delivery was effective in changing attitudes towards rape victims on issues relating to the treatment of people who report being raped.


Funder: University of Cambridge

Article, Rape myth, Rape, Randomised controlled trial, Victim credibility, Police attitudes, Sexual crime
Journal Title
Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing
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Springer International Publishing