Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lois Presser

Committee Members

James A. Black, Greer Litton Fox, Suzanne B. Kurth


Little is known about the factors police officers use when assessing the merits of a rape case. Police officers, like other members of the criminal justice system, employ discretion in their decision-making processes. They decide which cases merit an investigation and how diligently to pursue investigations. Since police officers are often the victim's first point of contact within the criminal justice system, it is important to assess what factors affect their use of discretion. Police officers are socialized into their gender roles in the same manner that any individual in our patriarchal system is socialized.

Rape is a form of gendered violence, as its victims are typically female and its offenders typically male. It is therefore relevant to assess how attitudes toward women relate to attitudes toward rape, especially among police officers. The current study contributes to what is known about police officers' attitudes toward women and rape. A survey was administered to 891 sworn police officers in two states in the southeastern United States. The surveys were designed to assess police officers' acceptance of rape myths, as well as their attitudes toward women. It was hypothesized that police officers who endorse sexist attitudes toward women would also be more accepting of rape myths. Both attitudes toward women and attitudes toward rape were expected to vary according to educational attainment and experience with rape investigations, such that higher levels of education and more experience with rape investigations would be associated with more positive attitudes toward women and rejection of rape myths.

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