Rape Crimes: Are Victims’ Acute Psychological Distress and Perceived Social Support Associated with Police Case Decision and Victim Willingness to Participate in the Investigation?

Author(s): 
Hansen, N.B., Hansen, M., Nielsen, L.H., Bramsen, R.H., Elkit, A., & Campbell, R. (2018).
Source: 
Violence Against Women, 24(6), 684 – 696.
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Summary: 
This study examined psychological distress and perceived social support in rape victims and their association with police case decisions and victims’ willingness to participate in the investigation. Results suggest that rape victims who disengage with the investigation may do so because of psychological distress.
Abstract: 

Rape is a severe traumatic event that often has grave consequences for the victim’s mental health and social well-being (Campbell, 2008; Campbell, Dworkin, & Cabral, 2009; Elklit & Christiansen, 2010). The psychological distress associated with rape exposure and the nature of the following perceived social support may influence the victim’s willingness to participate in the investigation and, hence, whether the police decide to proceed with the case (Anders & Christopher, 2011; Maddox, Lee, & Barker, 2011, 2012; Patterson & Campbell, 2010). Furthermore, research has indicated that some signs of traumatization among victims of rape may be interpreted by police officers as signs of lying, potentially affecting police case decisions (Maddox et al., 2012). Information on psychological factors affecting victims’ willingness and ability to participate in the investigation may serve as background for the establishment of a victim-centered legal approach and in the training of police officers. However, to date, only a few studies have been devoted to this research area (Anders & Christopher, 2011; Maddox et al., 2011, 2012; Patterson & Campbell, 2010). This study examined level of acute psychological distress and perceived social support in 64 victims of rape and the association with police case decisions and victims’ willingness to participate in the investigation. The results revealed that victims’ unwillingness to participate in the investigation was significantly associated with a higher level of psychological distress in the acute phase following the assault. The results suggest that victims of rape who disengage with the police investigation may do so because of a high level of acute psychological distress. Clinical implications are discussed.

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