Transforming sexual assault investigation training: Using evidence to inform practice

Dr Sarah Bennett

Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Queensland

Sexual assault has profound and long lasting consequences for victims and impacts their life in far reaching and complex ways. The manner in which police respond to sexual assault cases including their engagement with victims and decision-making during the investigative process are paramount to case progression and justice. The Queensland Police Service Detective and Specialist Investigation Training Unit, in partnership with The University of Queensland, developed and experimentally tested a two-week specialised Investigating Sexual Assault (ISA) training course that provides investigators with expert understanding of sexual offending, offender typologies, interviewing skills as well as self-care strategies for officers to reduce secondary traumatic stress. This presentation provides results relating to investigators pre/post knowledge of legislation, perceptions of their role and approach to victims and offenders, and value of investigator wellbeing. Additionally, results demonstrate the impact of the ISA course on investigators’ sexual assault case management outcomes. Results inform the role of police training in delivering measurable gains for victims, justice outcomes and police wellbeing. This research sits within the broader framework of testing training to transform practice.


Dr Sarah Bennett is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Queensland. Her research interests include evidence-based policing, procedural justice and legitimacy, and crime prevention. These interests are interwoven within three research aims to 1) advance the role of police and police training in improving outcomes for victims, offenders and communities, 2) understand mechanisms that produce sustainable crime control benefits and 3) innovate rigorous research methods in real world settings. Sarah is a Fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology with significant international expertise in conducting complex trials to inform policy and practice.

Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing

The Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing (ANZSEBP) was formed in April 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. The ANZSEBP is a police practitioner-led Society. The mission of the ANZSEBP is to develop, disseminate and advocate for police to use scientific research (“the evidence”) to guide best practice in all aspects of policing. The ANZSEBP Chairperson serves on the Executive Board of the British Society of Evidence Based Policing, ensuring that the ANZSEBP works cooperatively with an international group of police to advance evidence based policing.

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