An archival analysis of sexual assault victims’ age estimation accuracy when describing stranger offenders

Approximately 10% of all serious sexual assaults in England and Wales involve victims and offenders who are strangers. The victims often estimate the stranger offender’s age during police interviews. These age estimations, if accurate, can help identify offenders. This archival analysis examined the...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Thorley, Craig (Author)
Other Authors: Almond, Louise (Author); Gregory, Adam; McAlonan, Vanessa; McLoughlin, Amy
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2018, Volume: 24, Issue: 10, Pages: 1030-1049
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Approximately 10% of all serious sexual assaults in England and Wales involve victims and offenders who are strangers. The victims often estimate the stranger offender’s age during police interviews. These age estimations, if accurate, can help identify offenders. This archival analysis examined the accuracy of 546 stranger sexual assault victims’ age estimations. It also examined whether their accuracy can be predicted by victim age - offender age differences, victim age - offender estimated age differences, victim race - offender race differences, victim intoxication, victims’ duration of exposure to offenders, the time delay between assaults and age estimations, whether offenders have weapons, and whether offenders use sighting precautions. Amongst the descriptive findings, we found victims’ mean age estimation error was 4.78 years, the degree of over- and underestimation was equivalent, that only 12.5% of age estimations were within 0.99 years of an offender’s true age, but 90% were within 9.99 years of an offender’s true age. Only victim age - offender age differences and, importantly, victim age - offender estimated age differences predicted age estimation accuracy: as age differences decreased, accuracy increased. These findings can help predict stranger sexual assault victims’ age estimation accuracy in future cases.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2018.1503662