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Police officers' definitions of rape : a prototype study
Kurzfassung auf EnglischThe study investigates police officers' definitions of different rape situations. On the basis of the concept of 'cognitive prototypes' a methodology is developed which elicits consensual feature lists describing six rape situations: the typical, i.e. most common rape, the credible, dubious, and false rape complaints as weil as the rape experiences that are particularly hard vs. relatively easy for the victim to cope with. Qualitative analysis of the data allows the identification of the characteristic features defining the prototype of each rape situation, as weil as comparisons between the situations in terms of their common and distinctive features. It is shown that police officers, while sharing some of the widely held stereotypes about rape, generally perceive rape as a serious crime with long-term negative consequences for the victim. The quantitative analysis of prototype similarity between the six situations corroborates this conclusion by demonstrating a high similarity between the prototypes of the typical and the credible rape situation: In addition, subjects' general attitude towards rape victims is measured to compare the prototypes provided by respondents holding a positive vs. negative attitude towards rape victims. Findings for the two groups, however, reveal more similarities than differences in their descriptions of rape prototypes. The paper concludes with a discussion of the feasibility of the prototype approach presented in this study as a strategy for investigating implicit or common-sense theories of rape.
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