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“Tell Me in Your Own Words …”

“Tell Me in Your Own Words …”

Reconciling Institutional Salience and Witness-Compatible Language in Police Interviews with Women Reporting Rape

(p.249) Chapter Twelve “Tell Me in Your Own Words …”
The Discourse of Police Interviews
Nicci MacLeod
University of Chicago Press

Police interviewers must be cognizant of the needs of multiple audiences in relation to the talk that unfolds in the interview room. Simultaneously, they must negotiate an account which is both institutionally appropriate and fits the criteria set out by law on the one hand, and, according to current training models, is in the words of the interviewee on the other. Drawing on a small corpus of police interviews with rape victims, the chapter focuses on ‘formulation’ and ‘reported speech’ as reflexive speech devices through which interviewers orient to the absent audience, and as interactional resources they draw on to fix meaning and establish institutional salience. The chapter shows that reflexive language has the potential to be revealing not only of institutional priorities, but also of the ideological assumptions on which those priorities are based. The chapter further demonstrates that the types of reflexive language used may be problematic for interviewees to refute, in that the words, or force of the message, have been attributed to themselves. Given that rape victims often face criticism during cross examination based on inconsistencies between their statement and their testimony, this chapter demonstrates two of the means by which these supposed inconsistencies might arise.

Keywords:   formulations, reported speech, reflexive language, rape, participant roles

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