Officers and staff trained to look at the whole story of rapes and serious sexual offences

Police first responders across England and Wales are being trained to better understand the psychology of sex offenders and how they manipulate victims to help improve the quality of investigations and victim support when responding to crimes and incidents of a sexual nature.  

This new training has been released today and is focused on teaching officers and staff to look at the whole story surrounding a rape or sexual assault. This means looking at the whole relationship, however brief, between the suspect and the victim, including any grooming or manipulation, rather than the incident in isolation. It is based on the learning, which was developed by Operation Soteria, the project led by academics to improve police responses to reports of rape and serious sexual assaults. 

It’s important that victims of rape and sexual assault feel they have been listened to and that they’re supported from their first conversation with a call handler or response officer, right the way through to the conclusion of the investigation and beyond. This training is for anyone in force who provides an initial response to rape and other serious sexual offences and may need to offer support to victims. 

Officers and staff will be taught about sex offenders, victims’ responses to these traumatic events, myths and misconceptions about rape, communication skills, victim support and effective response. By the end of the training, officers and staff will be able to:  

  • Understand that offending begins with offenders and look at the psychology behind how an offender’s mind works, the way they see the world and tactics they may use.  
  • Understand the relationships surrounding sexual offending and how an offender can groom or manipulate a victim in order to offend, or create vulnerability such as using alcohol or drugs. 
  • Identify, assess and manage the risk posed by the suspect to the victim or others.  
  • Identify crime scenes and early forensic opportunities within a rape or serious sexual offence to ensure evidence is preserved for investigation.  
  • Identify and challenge the myths and misconceptions surrounding victim behaviour and understanding how grooming, manipulation and fear can impact this. A first responder is often responsible for the initial steps in an investigation so it’s important that they understand how a victim’s behaviour can be influenced in different ways under different circumstances.  
  • Understand how to support victims with referrals to partner organisations for further help as well as listen to their needs and consider the best ways of communicating with victims with different needs. For example, the best communication method and the best use of language.  
  • Apply what they have learned in the training package to their past or live cases with the support of a trainer. 

The first four modules of the training package are to be completed online via College Learn with the last module being completed in a classroom environment by a trainer in force. Train the trainer sessions will be delivered by the College of Policing so trainers will be able to teach across all 43 forces across England and Wales ensure the learning is of a consistent standard.  

David Tucker, College of Policing Head of Crime, said: “Rape and serious sexual offences can have an incredibly traumatic impact on victims which is why it is essential that we are able to provide the best possible support and understanding at every stage from the initial report to the conclusion of an investigation and beyond.  

“By better understanding the psychology of offenders who commit rape and sexual assault, we can make sure the victim is at the centre of the investigation and the entirety of the context and the circumstances are considered so that offenders can be brought to justice for these very serious offences.”  


Contact Information

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College of Policing

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