The influence of stereotypical beliefs, participant gender, and survivor weight on sexual assault response.

Education efforts aimed to dispel rape myths and victim blaming are necessary, in order to help defeat stereotypes surrounding sexual assault victims.


Summary: This study examined the influence of participant gender, stereotypical beliefs, and survivor body weight on evaluations of a hypothetical sexual assault case.  413 participants (299 female, 107 male, 3 other) were recruited through an online survey tool.  Participants were Canadian residents. They self identified as mostly white (66.6%) and ranged in age from 18-71 years with a mean age of 30.6.  Participants were asked to picture themselves as jurors in a sexual assault trial and then had to read a mock police report filed by a woman who alleged her classmate sexually assaulted her.  Approximately half (n=214) of the participants read a report where the woman was described as thin and half (n=199) read a report where she was described as overweight.  After reading the report participants were asked to make a series of judgments involving the case, including attributions of responsibility, sympathy, and negative affect toward each party.  Men and individuals with a higher level of rape myth acceptance, and those with anti-fat attitudes were found to make more negative evaluations of the survivor and more positive evaluations of the perpetrator during the study.  The findings support education efforts to reduce stereotypical beliefs and rape myths; and that involving employees who work in a field where they are likely to come into contact with sexual assault survivors would also be beneficial.


Application: This study highlights the fact that rape myth prevelance leads to victim blaming.  This article may help in education design of future prevention programs.


Limitations: This study examined a hypothetical sexual assault case rather than real world case studies.

Clarke, A., Stermac, L.
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Journal of Interpersonal Violence