- Dr Katrin Hohl (Principal Investigator)
Research undertaken by Dr Katrin Hohl across a seven-year period has had a deep reach in police forces across the UK, directly informing police understanding of sexual and domestic violence; changing police training, procedures, and resource allocation; and benefiting victim-survivors of sexual or domestic violence.
Most recently, Dr Hohl’s research on domestic abuse during Covid-19 informed police force decision-making nationally and increased resource allocation to domestic abuse within one force.
What did we explore and how?
There were several strands to Dr Hohl’s wide-ranging research.
Less than one per cent of rapes reported to police result in a conviction. Dr Hohl’s study of this ‘attrition problem’ in relation to rape convictions produced first-of-its-kind robust empirical evidence through statistical analysis of a representative sample of 587 rape complaints made to Europe’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
A further analysis of the MPS rape case files dataset was used to explore how human memory impacts rape case attrition. In complaints of rape the victim’s memory is frequently the only (and nearly always the central) piece of evidence of the alleged rape.
Building on her research, Dr Hohl secured a HEFCE/Home Office Police Knowledge Fund Grant in 2015 to study current police training and officer understanding of rape victim engagement, the attrition problem, and to develop new training based on these findings in collaboration with the MPS and Sussex Constabulary.
She conducted interviews with a representative sample of police officers.
A subsequent domestic abuse risk assessment provided the first robust statistical analysis of which risk factors were most helpful in identifying high-risk domestic abuse cases.
Dr Hohl used innovative modelling to analyse the risk assessment tool, which officers in England and Wales must complete at every domestic incident they attend. The risk assessment is crucial in triggering safeguarding to preventing further harm, including homicide.
From June 2020, Dr Hohl investigated the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on domestic abuse reported to police. The research analysed all domestic abuse-flagged incidents and crimes reported to seven police forces across England since the onset of the pandemic.
Data was compared to those of the two previous years, to account for seasonal and long-term trends, and then mapped onto the introduction and lifting of national and local Covid-19 restrictions.
Benefits and influence of this research
Dr Hohl and her co-investigators used their research findings to develop new, evidence-based training for police officers who investigate rape and sexual assault, now used by at least two police forces.
The research prompted police forces to pioneer Dr Hohl’s proposal of an innovative, anonymous reporting route specifically designed for sexual violence victim-survivors, improving their access to criminal justice.
Dr Hohl’s work has shaped changes to the risk assessment police officers in England and Wales complete at domestic incidents, directly benefitting victim-survivors and preventing further harm, including homicide.
Internationally, Dr Hohl’s research is being used to inform rape law reform processes in Japan and Australia.