Attitudes about Forced Sexual Behavior
Mentor:Anne Schell, Professor & Head Chair of Psychology Department , Occidental College
The study’s purpose was to examine different perceptions and attributions of college male and female victims who were sexually assaulted by an acquaintance or a stranger. 97 undergraduate students read a vignette that described a college male or female student attending a friend’s birthday party who is sexually assaulted in the bathroom by a man who is slightly acquainted or a stranger to the victim. Subjects answered a survey about the vignette that measured: blame of the victim, degree of trauma from the encounter, need for psychological treatment, amount of resistance the victim should have attempted, feelings of similarity to the victim and the perpetrator, and punishment for the rapist. For each perceived dependent variable in the vignette, a 2x2x2 analysis of variance was performed to assess the effects of gender of the participant, gender of the victim, and familiarity of the perpetrator to the victim. The data suggested very low blaming of the victim, high levels of displeasure and trauma experienced, agreement that the victim would experience long term psychological effects and psychological treatment would be necessary. For the resistance factor, there was a strong victim gender effect: the male victim should have done more to defend himself against the perpetrator, but not the female victim. Participants felt little similarity to the perpetrator, but perceived similarity to the victim was greater for females participants than for men. Participants felt more similar to the victim of their own gender. Interestingly, women felt more similar to a victim assaulted by an acquaintance while men felt more similar to the victim assaulted by a stranger. The data may suggest a possible reason that male victims of sexual abuse do not disclose to others because participants felt that the male victim should have been able to defend himself from the attack.