Reporting sexual assault to the authorities is fraught with difficulties, and these are compounded when the complainant is hindered by an intellectual disability (ID). In a study of 19 U.K. police interviews with complainants with ID alleging sexual assault and rape, we found that most interviewing officers on occasion pursued lines of questioning which not only probed inconsistencies (which is mandated by their guidelines), but implicitly questioned complainants’ conduct (which is not). We detail two main conversational practices which imply disbelief and disapproval of the complainants’ accounts and behaviour, and whose pragmatic entailments may pose problems for complainants with ID. Such practices probably emerge from interviewers’ foreshadowing of the challenges likely to be made in court by defence counsel. As a policy recommendation, we suggest providing early explanation for the motivation for such questioning, and avoiding certain question formats (especially how come you did X? and why didn't you do Y?).
Bibliographical noteThis is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Antaki, C. , Richardson, E. , Stokoe, E. and Willott, S. (2015), Police interviews with vulnerable people alleging sexual assault: Probing inconsistency and questioning conduct. J Sociolinguistics, 19: 328-350, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12124. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Antaki, C., Richardson, E., Stokoe, E., & Willott, S. (2015). Police interviews with vulnerable people alleging sexual assault: Probing inconsistency and questioning conduct. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 19(3), 328-350. https://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12124