This study examined how sexual assault investigators determine victim credibility.
The literature on sexual assault case outcomes has demonstrated that victim credibility is a critical component in criminal justice outcomes. Much of this literature has focused on prosecutors' evaluations of victim credibility and the role of credibility in decisions to charge. Comparatively less research has examined the specific factors that impact police investigators' evaluation of victim credibility. Findings indicate that extralegal characteristics, including victim behavior at the time of victimization and victim moral character, were important factors when evaluating victim credibility. In the absence of corroborating evidence, victim credibility was considered the most critical factor in decisions to arrest and present cases to prosecutors. Finally, important distinctions were revealed between juvenile and adult investigators regarding the evaluation of credibility. Police investigators' decisions are guided by their perceptions of the characteristics necessary for prosecutors to accept charges in sexual assault investigations. Among these characteristics, victim credibility appeared to be the most important. This study analyzed interview data collected from 44 sexual assault investigators to determine how investigators evaluate victim credibility and victim credibility's role in decisions to arrest and present cases to prosecutors. (Publisher abstract modified)
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