Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology, Clinical-Community

Date of Defense

10-2-2009

Graduate Advisor

Steven E. Bruce, Ph.D.

Committee

Galovski, Tara

Griffin, Michael

Miller, Jody

Abstract

Sexual assault is a formidable concern in American society with alarming rates of victimization among women and men. Based on the high prevalence of rape, some researchers have argued that America has a rape supportive culture (Burt, 1980; Wakelin & Long, 2003). The culture is particularly supported by the high incidence of victim blame that is commonly reported upon in research evaluating perceptions of rape victims. The purpose of the current study was to determine what types of variables are associated with victim blame and the theories which best explain why victim blame occurs. In particular, the current study evaluated various respondent and victim variables to determine if they correlated with victim blame. The theories of the just world belief and defensive attribution were also assessed to determine their impact on victim blame. Finally, the impact of knowledge of the rape law on victim blame was evaluated. Results revealed no significant association between belief in a just world and victim blame. The findings indicated that respondents endorsing more egalitarian attitudes tended to blame the victim less than those endorsing more traditional gender norms. Also, respondents who reported a history of sexual assault were found to be less blaming of the victim than other respondents. Rape myth acceptance was also noted to be associated with victim blame, with individuals endorsing high levels of rape myths also tended to blame the victim more than other participants. Lastly, results suggested that individuals with a better knowledge of the current rape law were less likely to blame the victim than those who provided an incorrect definition. Overall, the results provide more support for the defensive attribution theory than for the just world hypothesis. Also, the results highlight the types of variables that are particularly associated with victim blame. These results shed some light on how sexual assault education and awareness can be improved; in addition, they provide some insight into how clinical care of rape victims can be enhanced.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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