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Five pillars: A framework for transforming the police response to rape and sexual assault

Hohl, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-3992-019X & Stanko, E. A. (2022). Five pillars: A framework for transforming the police response to rape and sexual assault. International Criminology, 2(3), pp. 222-229. doi: 10.1007/s43576-022-00057-y


The ‘justice gap’ for cases of rape and sexual assault is well-documented. Despite our rich understanding of the problem, its visibility in the public sphere, and state commitments to increasing charge and conviction rates, the justice gap is getting larger in the Western World. On a practical level, police are gatekeepers of outcome justice – arrests, charges, and convictions. As representatives of the state and society, police also wield significant symbolic power in defining the faultline between behaviour that is deemed ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. In this article we propose a theory-based and practice-oriented framework for transforming the police response to rape and sexual assault that draws on the large body of feminist literature on sexual violence and criminal justice responses, in combination with policing literature. This framework comprises five pillars: 1) suspect-focused investigations; 2) disrupting repeat offenders; 3) a procedural justice approach to victim-survivor engagement; 4) officer learning, wellbeing, and organisational change; and 5) the use of data. We conclude with a discussion of its practical implementation and empirical validation.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Rape, Sexual assault, Justice gap, ,Policing Police reform
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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