Improving Victim Engagement and Officer Response in Rape Investigations


The initial interaction between rape victims and police affects how cases progress through the criminal justice system. In one US state capitol, the police agency determined its initial response to rape victims was sub-par. Victim engagement was low, and officer-written reports often endorsed negative stereotypes about rape victims. A four-hour training to enhance police response was developed and implemented. Within four months, all sworn officers (n~600) completed an in-person, four-hour training. We first test the effects of training on the percentage of rape victims who stay engaged in the investigative process following their initial contact with officers. We then use a machine-learning-based text analysis of all written reports (77 pre-training, and 55 post-training cases) of initial contacts between officers and victims. Compared to the six months before training, victim engagement improved 32% in the post-training period. Written reports by officers also improved, with increased victim-supportive language and improved focus on victim services.

Journal of Criminal Justice


This is a pre-print of a manuscript that is forthcoming in the Journal of Criminal Justice. There may be slight changes between this version and the version of record. The link to the final publication will be located here, or you can access a pre-print version at the link below.

BibTeX citation

@article{Mourtgos_Adams_Mastracci_2021, title={Improving victim engagement and officer response in rape investigations: A longitudinal assessment of a brief training}, volume={74}, ISSN={0047-2352}, DOI={10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2021.101818}, journal={Journal of Criminal Justice}, author={Mourtgos, Scott M. and Adams, Ian T. and Mastracci, Sharon H.}, year={2021}, month={May}, pages={101818} }