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"Victim is Not Credible" The Influence of Rape Culture on Police Perceptions of Sexual Assault Complainants

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 36 Issue: 1 Dated: 2019 Pages: 127-160
Eryn N. O'Neal
Date Published
34 pages

Since few studies have investigated the police decision to question a complainant's credibility in sexual assault allegations, the current study used data on sexual assaults reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2008 to address this issue, focusing on the effects of rape culture.


The results suggest that indicators of "real rape" and measures of complainant "character flaws" influence the likelihood that an officer will question a complainant's credibility. Notably, all indicators measuring officer perceptions of complainant "character flaws," whether reputation issues were present, the complainant suffered from mental health issues, her testimony was inconsistent, and whether the officer believed she had a motive to lie - increased the likelihood that the police would question her credibility. Practical implications, theoretical advancements, and directions for future research are discussed. (publisher abstract modified)