Explaining rape victim blame: A test of attribution theory

Rape victim-blaming attitudes are examined with data from a probability sample of students at a southern university (male, n = 511; female, n = 666). Hypotheses derived from two competing versions of attribution theory, "defensive attribution" and "need for control," are tested to examine the effects of gender, past female sexual victimization, past male sexual aggression, nonsexual crime victimization, and risk taking on rape myth acceptance. The results show that: (1) Females are substantially less likely to blame rape victims; (2) For the female subsample, risk taking and rape victim blame are negatively associated; (3) Among males, past sexual aggression and risk taking are positiviely related to victim blaming; and (4) Male experience with nonsexual victimization is negatively related to victim blaming. Each version of attribution theory is partially confirmed by the findings. Nationality, race/ethnicity, class standing, and rape prevention knowledge also influence victim blaming attitudes.
Author: 
Gray,Norma B.
Palileo,Gloria J.
Johnson,G.David
Reprint Status: 
IN FILE
Start Page: 
377
End Page: 
392
Journal/Periodical Name: 
Sociological Spectrum
Volume: 
13
Abstract: 
This study explored rape victim blaming attitudes among 1,177 college students by drawing upon two competing hypotheses within attribution theory; namely, defensive attribution and need for control. Students answered survey questionnaires measuring rape myths, previous sexual victimization, previous sexual aggression, risk taking behaviors, and additional questions concerning demographics and knowledge of rape prevention. The findings indicate that gender is the most significant predictor of rape victim blaming with females less likely to blame rape victims. Furthermore, risk taking and rape victim blaming were negatively associated among females whereas among males, previous sexual aggression and risk taking were more likely to be associated with victim blaming. In contrast, males with previous nonsexual victimization experience, males of higher class standing, and males who had prior exposure to rape prevention knowledge were less likely to engage in victim blaming. Foreign students and nonwhite students were most accepting of rape myths. Implications for rape prevention are proposed.
Topic Areas: 
College; myths/stereotypes; racial/ethnic differences; risk
Reference Type: 
JOUR
Reference ID: 
857
Publication Date: 
1993