Victim-survivor (dis) engagement with criminal justice in domestic abuse and rape cases

Research Institution / Organisation

The Open University

Principal Researcher

Dr Lis Bates

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

April 2020

Research Context

This project addresses a core challenge for policing domestic violence and abuse (DVA) and rape, namely the high rate of victim-survivor disengagement from the criminal justice system, which is a key driver of DVA and rape attrition (cases dropping out of the justice system). The project arose from a detailed scoping exercise conducted with police forces which identified this as a core challenge for policing DVA and rape. Police forces keenly want better guidance on how to support victims and handle cases.


An additional research aim and workstream has been added to the original project plan to investigate the impact of Covid on reporting to police and victim engagement. The project aims are to:

  • Understand the profile, reasons for, and implications of victim non-engagement with police and criminal justice processes in DVA and rape cases, and recommend measures to improve engagement, reduce attrition and achieve the best outcomes for victims;

  • Understand whether and how the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown affected victim reporting to police, engagement and attrition, and share lessons for policing DVA and rape.

Research Methodology

‚ÄčThe research employs mixed methods, combining

  1. high level incident data from several police forces on DVA and rape reports before and after lockdown in March 2020;

  2. in-depth analysis of a sub-sample of DVA and rape files from two police forces;

  3. qualitative interviews with DVA and rape victims/survivors, and 

  4. focus groups with police representatives.

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčNot available

Date due for completion

January 2022
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