Improving victim engagement and officer response in rape investigations: A longitudinal assessment of a brief training.


The initial interaction between rape victims and police officers 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 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
Scott M. Mourtgos
Scott M. Mourtgos
Ph.D. Candidate

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Utah and a National Institute of Justice LEADS scholar. I study policing and criminal justice policy. I am particularly interested in public perceptions of police use-of-force and the criminal justice system, investigative techniques in sexual assault cases, and crime deterrence policy.