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Why people blame the rape victim
A victim blame bibliography

Rape is the only crime of which the victim must prove his or her innocence.

"Perhaps we can't see the victim as innocent, because by so doing we would have to admit

that similar things might happen even to us. We blame the victim in order to feel more in control." Anyara

What is victim blame?

"Victim blaming is holding the victim responsible for what has happened to her/him. One way

in which victim blaming is perpetuated is through rape myths. Rape myths allow us to blame

the victim and are often common false beliefs."


Belief in a just world

Only 2% of accused rapists are convicted. In contrast FBI studies indicate that only 2% of

all rape reports are false. "Low conviction rates result from insufficient evidence to prosecute,

dismissal of trial due to technicalities and reluctance of victims to testify. For these reasons,

low conviction rates do not imply false reporting."

One of the main theories behind victim blaming is the just world hypothesis. "Individuals

that have a strong belief in a just world can have this belief challenged when they encounter

a victim of random misfortune such as a rape victim. The individual wants to believe that the

world is a safe, just place where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

Even when evidence suggests otherwise, the individual is very reluctant to give up this belief

that the world is not just.

In the face of contradicting evidence, research suggests (Kleinke and Meyer, 1996) that

people with a high belief in a just world will do one of two things: either they will try to

eliminate the suffering of the innocent victims or else they will derogate them for their fate.

Since it is impossible to reverse the crime of rape, and thus relieve the victim of her suffering,

the rape victim is often subjected to derogation and blame. In this manner, the person who

believes in a just world can maintain this belief as there is no longer a suffering person,

but a woman who deserves her misfortune."

No one wonders what the victim of a mugging or violent murder did to deserve it. Rape is

a crime of violence, power and control. No one "deserves" it.


What can you expect from a survivor?

Behaviour characteristics involved in Rape Trauma Syndrome.


18.%20Coping%20&%20Reactions.pdf paste this link into a browser

" Two main styles of emotion were shown by the victims within the first few hours after the

rape: expressed and controlled. In the expressed style. the victim demonstrated such feelings

as anger, fear and anxiety. They were restless during the interview, becoming tense

when certain questions were asked, crying or sobbing when describing specific acts of

the assailant, smiling in an anxious manner when certain issues were stated. In the

controlled style, the feelings of the victim were masked or hidden, and a calm,

composed or subdued affect could be noted. "

Why do rape victims feel guilty for being the victim of a crime?

The difference between guilt (meant for a perpetrator) and shame (felt by victims

and confused with guilt)

An exercise from the Courage to Heal

If someone verbally or physically harasses a rape victim or survivor it may be considered

a hate crime or hate speech. For immediate victim assistance call 206-350-4283 or

1 800-879-6682 24 hours a day or fill out this online hate crime report form.

"Last year the American Psychological Association issued the report Hate Crimes Today:

An Age-Old Foe in Modern Dress. In the report Dr. Jack McDevitt, a criminologist, stated,

"Hate crimes are message crimes. They are different from other crimes in that the offender

is sending a message to members of a certain group that they are unwelcome.

Preliminary research indicates that hate crimes have more serious psychological effects

than non-bias motivated crimes."


The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hate crime as:

* Hate crime -orig. U.S., a crime, usually violent, motivated by hatred or intolerance of

another social group, esp. on the basis of race or sexuality; crime of this type; freq. attrib.

(occas. in pl.), designating legislation, etc., framed to address such crime.

* Hate speech -orig. U.S., speech expressing hatred or intolerance of other social groups,

esp. on the basis of race or sexuality; hostile verbal abuse (though the term is sometimes

understood to encompass written and non-verbal forms of expression).

"Fact: The incidence of false reporting of rape is about 2 percent. This is about the same

as that for false reporting of other felonies (Department of Social Services). Survivors of

sexual assault are often traumatized again when they report the assault or rape since the

process of making a police report itself can be very difficult. This re-victimization makes

the likelihood of false reporting very minimal. It is far more likely that rape is very

under-reported. Some experts estimate that only 1 in 10 rapes are ever reported."


The Rape of Mr. Smith

Victim Blame Bibliography

Online resources (Back to menu)



Beyond rape myths: A more complex view of perceptions of rape victims -

Author: Amy M. Buddie, Arthur G. Miller

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, August, 2001


"This research examined personal beliefs and perceptions of cultural stereotypes

surrounding rape victims. Students (ages 18-21) at a primarily Caucasian University

listed either their personal beliefs or their perceptions of cultural stereotypes surrounding

rape victims and rated a specific rape victim either according to their personal beliefs

or their perceptions of cultural stereotypes. Personal beliefs about rape victims tended to

focus more on perceptions of victim reactions to the rape (e.g., depression, anxiety, etc.)

rather than on rape myths (e.g., she asked for it, was promiscuous, etc.). Perceptions of

cultural stereotypes, however, comprised rape myths rather than the victim reactions to

rape. We propose that perceptions of rape victims are more multifaceted than has previously been suggested."




Victim blame and the disinhibition of sexual arousal to rape vignettes.

Author: Sundberg SL, Barbaree HE, Marshall WL.

Violence Vict. 1991 Summer;6(2):103-20.


"The present study examined the effects of differing levels of victim blame on the

sexual arousal of males to rape vignettes. In the first experiment, a between-subjects

experimental design was used to compare four groups of eight university males for

their erectile responses to vignettes rated as low, medium, and high along a victim

blame continuum. All groups found a consenting vignette more arousing than a

nonconsenting vignette, however, this difference was significantly smaller for

subjects in the high blame condition compared to the low and medium blame

conditions. A second experiment supported the disinhibiting effect of the high

victim blame manipulation using 12 university males in a within-subjects experimental

design. The disinhibiting influence of victim blame on male sexual arousal to rape cues

was discussed in relation to our broader understanding of sexual assault."



But she was unfaithful: benevolent sexism and reactions to rape victims who violate

traditional gender role expectations - Brief Report

Author: Viki G. Tendayi

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Sept, 2002


"In the present research we examine victim blame in relation to different types of

victims of acquaintance rape. In predicting victim blame, we consider the role of rape

myth acceptance, but our main focus is on the role of benevolent sexist beliefs."



Non-Rational Guilt in Victims of Trauma

Author:Gail M. Price, Ph.D.

The author is associated with the Trauma Clinic at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in

Boston, MA


"The guilt many victims of physical and psychological trauma experience in response to

their victimization often contains non-rational content which, when analyzed, is more

appropriate to the perpetrator. This non-rational perpetrator guilt is imposed on the

victim under two primary conditions: 1) attribution, in which the perpetrator disavows

guilt and blames the victim for the victimization; and 2) terror, which results in the

victim's rapid incorporation of essentially the entire world view of the perpetrator,

including the perpetrator's guilt. Guilt results when some aspect of a moral system is

transgressed. There are four aspects of a moral system reflecting different levels of guilt

and four basic components of guilt within each level. The perpetrator's violation of one

aspect of a moral system may be processed by the victim at the level of another aspect,

making resolution difficult. Resolution involves careful analysis of the content of the guilt

to enable the victim to identify its source."



The Rape of Mr. Smith

From "The Legal Bias Against Rape Victims (The Rape of Mr. Smith)" by Siobhan Morrissey.

American Bar Association Journal. April 1975. Reprinted by permission of the ABA Journal.


"The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner that would not be tolerated by

victims of any other crime. In the following situation, a lawyer asks questions of a hold-up




Rape is...discussion guide


"From a feminist perspective, the reason people are focused on the woman's responsibility

is because it lets sexual coercers off the hook for their predatory behavior. If you can blame

the victim, you don't have to take responsibility for your own actions. It is best to steer

conversations away from this pitfall. Instead, ask, "How does this fit into the larger picture?"

Part of the effort of this film is to look at the larger picture of rape, outside of the

"he said, she said" debate. What does it mean that we try to hold the victim responsible for

her rape? Does this mean we believe that women can't wear tank tops and short skirts?

Does this mean we are saying women can't go out at night? Are we saying that anyone who

goes to a bar and meets someone gets what he or she deserves? Are we saying that we don't

have the right to drink and be safe from sexual assault and rape? Are we saying that being

drunk is a form of consent?"



Rape Prevention with College Males: The Roles of Victim Empathy, Rape Myth Acceptance,

and Outcome Expectancies

William O’Donohue, Ph.D., Matthew Fanetti


"Irrational beliefs about women and sexuality (rape myths) such as "Women really want

to be raped" and "If a man pays for a date then he is entitled to sex" cause men to rape.

Finkelhor (1986) also suggests that the endorsement of rape myths act as a factor that

reduces internal inhibitions to rape. In Pithers' (Hildebran & Pithers, 1992) model of sexual

offending apparently irrelevant decisions and poor victim empathy (a cognitive-affective variable)

contribute to sexual offending. McFall (1990, p. 318) has stated in his information processing

model of rape:

"This evidence paints the following portrait of sexually aggressive men. They enter heterosexual

relationships holding distorted cognitive schemata that

predispose them to sexual misunderstandings and misguided actions. It is as though these

men were 'primed' by their schemata to read positive sexual

connotations into women's neutral or negative messages; to believe that women secretly

wish to be victims of sexual coercion; to misinterpret women's refusals of sexual advances

merely as coquettish acceptances; to dismiss women's physical

resistance as a primeval sexual ritual; to misperceive women's cries of pain as squeals of

pleasure; and to redefine any attempted rebuffs as proof that women

are 'teases' who deserve whatever they get."


The Culture of Violence Against Women

Author: Dr. Danielle Currier


"different forms of violence, the gendered nature of violence, cultural aspects of and variations

in violence against women, and the things unique to a college campus that make it an

environment in which violence against women is prevalent.

Dr. Currier's presentation is part of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Awareness Month

activities. Sources and links listing these activities are indicated below

Dr. Currier may contacted via Email at: dmcurrier@radford.edu " Includes a bibliography and

online resources.

Online Popular Resources

(Back to menu)



Author: Anyara 2003


"Perhaps we can't see the victim as innocent, because by so doing we would have to admit

that similar things might happen even to us. We blame the victim in order to feel more in control. "



Cultural rape myths from survivors emerging

Author: Astrid


"we have the right to live our lives without threat of harm. The fact that women find

this to nearly impossible must be changed. We face this fear every time we leave our

homes. We will find our empowerment when we can place the blame where it belongs-"



Rape Coverage: Shifting the Blame

Author: Laura Flanders


"Rape, and in particular acquaintance rape, has become something of a human interest

story-of-choice for mainstream newspaper editors recently. But more coverage has

usually not meant better.

...Instead of hearing the cries of survivors, the press is hearing the complaints of apologists;

instead of condemning cruelty, the press promotes excuses."



Dont blame victim of sexual violence

Author: Ron Aaron


"Failing to lock doors and windows or going out alone at night doesn't cause rape.

Indeed, it's not her responsibility to prevent rape. It's his obligation to stop doing it. "



Blaming the Victim

Author: Boston Women's Health Book Collective


"The most common emotional responses to sexual harassment, battering, and rape are

guilt, fear, powerlessness, shame, betrayal, anger, and denial. Guilt is often the first and

deepest response."

Scholarly Journal Articles

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Article title: An exploratory approach to self-blame and self-derogation by rape victims

Journal title:American-Journal-of-Orthopsychiatry

Database to look in:Social Work Abstracts

APA citation:

Libow, J. & Doty, D. (1979). An exploratory approach to self-blame and self-derogation by rape

victims. American-Journal-of-Orthopsychiatry, 49(4), 670-679.


A study was undertaken to determine whether self-attributed blame or self-derogation is

empirically verifiable for acute rape victims, and whether belief in a just world and avoidance

of harm or blame are relevant explanatory constructs. Quantitative and interview data were

gathered from seven rape victims. Results supported self-blaming as an important aspect of

response to rape, and future avoidance of harm rather than a belief in a just world was found

as the most relevant motive. The factor of compensation to the victim appeared important as

a means to reduce the victim's need to derogate herself as a result of the rape. The phenomenon

of compassion for, or identification with, the rapist also emerged from the data. Clinical

implications of these findings for the adjustment of victims, the therapeutic exploration of

compensation, counseling strategies, and the legal system are discussed.


Article title: Social Perception of Rape: How Rape Myth Acceptance Modulates the Influence

of Situational Factors

Journal title: Journal-of-Interpersonal-Violence

Database to look in: Psychinfo

APA citation:

Frese, B., Moya, M., & Megius, J. L. (2004). Social Perception of Rape: How Rape Myth

Acceptance Modulates the Influence of Situational Factors. Journal-of-Interpersonal-Violence,

19(2), 143-161.


This study assessed the role of rape myth acceptance (RMA) and situational factors in the

perception of three different rape scenarios (date rape, marital rape, and stranger rape).

One hundred and eighty-two psychology undergraduates were asked to emit four judgements

about each rape situation: victim responsibility, perpetrator responsibility, intensity of trauma,

and likelihood to report the crime to the police. It was hypothesized that neither RMA nor

situational factors alone can explain how rape is perceived; it is the interaction between these

two factors that best account for social reactions to sexual aggression. The results generally

supported the authors' hypothesis: Victim blame, estimation of trauma, and the likelihood of

reporting the crime to the police were best explained by the interaction between observer

characteristics, such as RMA, and situational clues. That is, the less stereotypic the rape

situation was, the greater was the influence of attitudes toward rape on attributions.


Article title: Perceptions of Stranger and Acquaintance Rape: The Role of Benevolent and

Hostile Sexism in Victim Blame and Rape Proclivity

Journal title: Journal-of-Personality-and-Social-Psychology

Database to look in: Psychinfo

APA citation:

Abrahms, D., Viky, G., Masser, B., & Gerd, B. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance

rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity.

Journal-of-Personality-and-Social-Psychology, 84(1), 111-125.


In Studies 1 and 2, after reading an acquaintance-rape but not a stranger-rape scenario,

higher benevolent sexist but not hostile sexist participants blamed the victim significantly

more. In Study 2, higher hostile sexist but not benevolent sexist male participants showed

significantly greater proclivity to commit acquaintance (but not stranger) rape. Studies 3

and 4 supported the hypothesis that the effects of benevolent sexism and hostile sexism

are mediated by different perceptions of the victim, as behaving inappropriately and as

really wanting sex with the rapist. These findings show that benevolent sexism and hostile

sexism underpin different assumptions about women that generate sexist reactions toward

rape victims.


Article title: Blaming the victim of rape: The culpable control model perspective.

Journal title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International

Database to look in: PsycINFO

APA citation:

Pauwels, B. (2002). Blaming the victim of rape: The culpable control model perspective.


Sciences-and-Engineering, 63(5-B), .

This is a scholarly article examing why we blame the victim rather than the perpetrator of rape.


"Three vignette-based studies are presented that represent the first attempt to examine

rape victim blame within the context of an explicit, comprehensive theory of blame. Study

1 examined the hypothesis that evaluative information about a victim of rape would

have a greater effect upon victim blaming when the victim's personal control over the

rape was portrayed as somewhat elevated, rather than unambiguously low."


Article title: High school and college students' attitudes toward rape.

Journal title: Adolescence

Database to look in:Social Work Abstracts

APA citation:

Blumberg, M. & Lester, D. (1991). High school and college students' attitudes toward rape.

Adolescence, 26(103), 727-729.


This study explores the relationship between agreement with myths about rape and the

tendency to blame the victim in a sample of high school and college students. It was found

that high school males believed more strongly than did both high school females and

college males in myths about rape, and they assigned greater blame to the victims of rape.

For both high school males and females, belief in myths about rape was associated with

assigning more blame to the victims. (Journal abstract.)


Article title:

Models of Rape Judgment: attributions concerning event, perpetrator, and victim.

Journal title:

Journal of Offender Rehabilitation

Database to look in:


APA citation:

Langley, T., Yost, E.A., O'Neal, E.C., Taylor, S.L., et al. (1991). Models of Rape Judgment: attributions concerning

event, perpetrator, and victim. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 17, (1-2), 43-54.


"Discusses analytical models developed to identify perceptions that may serve as cognitive

mediators of rape judgments, including blaming victims, attribution of rape culpability,

date rape attribution, and the influence of violent behavior. Victim blame appears to play

little role in mediating judgment regarding punishment, restitution, and whether or not

rape occurred. Earlier onset of victim protest increased recognition of the incident as rape,

the likelihood that the offender would be convicted, and the likelihood that Ss would choose

to award civil damages to the victim. The effects of onset were mediated by perception

of the victim as desiring sexual intercourse. The degree of force used by the perpetrator

yielded similar effects, mediated by the judges' perception of the incident as violent but

only for male judges."


Article title: Blaming the victim of rape: The culpable control

model perspective

Journal title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International:-Section-B:-The-


Database to took in: PsycInfo

APA citation:

Pauwels, B. (2002). Blaming the victim of rape: The culpable control

model perspective. Dissertation-Abstracts-International:-Section-B:-The-

Sciences-and-Engineering, 63(5-B), .

This is a scholarly article examing why we blame the victim rather than the perpetrator of rape.


"Three vignette-based studies are presented that represent the

first attempt to examine rape victim blame within the context of an

explicit, comprehensive theory of blame. Study 1 examined the

hypothesis that evaluative information about a victim of rape would

have a greater effect upon victim blaming when the victim's personal

control over the rape was portrayed as somewhat elevated, rather than unambiguously low."


Article title: Attribution of rape blame as a function of victim gender and sexuality, and perceived similarity to the victim

Journal title: Journal of Homosexuality

Database to look in: contemporary womens issues

APA citation:

Shaver, . (2002). Attribution of rape blame as a function of victim gender and sexuality, and perceived similarity

to the victim. Journal of Homosexuality, 43(2), .


This study examined respondents' perceived level of blame and responsibility for three victims

of rape, as a function of attitudes toward homosexuals, and perceived similarity to the victim

, as indicative of Shaver's (1970) Defensive Attribution Hypothesis. Victims were a homosexual

and heterosexual male, and a female. A sample of 168 university students completed

questionnaires, which included three rape scenarios and subsequent questions, the Index of

Attitudes Toward Homosexuals (Hudson & Ricketts, 1980), and the short-form Marlowe-Crowne

Social Desirability Scale (Reynolds, 1982). Results indicated that respondents higher in

homophobia (regardless of gender) blamed the homosexual male rape victim and the behavior

and character of the heterosexual male rape victim, more than the female rape victim. Male

respondents in general also blamed the heterosexual male rape victim, more than female

respondents. Shaver's defensive attribution hypothesis was not supported. Results are

discussed in terms of the possible link between homophobia and male rape blame.


Article title: Madcap Misogyny and Romanticized Victim-Blaming: Discourses of Stalking in There's Something About Mary

Journal title: Women & Language

Database to look in: contemporary womens issues

APA citation:

Anderson , K. J. & Accomando, C. (1999). Madcap Misogyny and Romanticized Victim-Blaming:

Discourses of Stalking in There's Something About Mary. Women & Language, 1, 24-28.


"One aspect of victim-blaming is the belief in rape myths. Rape myths serve a patriarchal

world view, in which men possess and deserve greater power and privilege than women.

Such myths include the construction that women cause, deserve, or even enjoy being raped.

Blaming the victim of rape also shifts causality in interesting ways. On the one hand, in

stereotypical representations, men are depicted are powerful and active while women are

depicted as powerless and passive. On the other hand, rape myths shift causality to preserve

male privilege (in this case the right of access to women's bodies) by constructing women

as agents of their own rape. Women become temptresses and men appear at the mercy of

women and of their own hormones. A more general theory to explain victim-blaming is the

belief in a just world. The "just world" hypothesis is the tendency to believe that the world

is a fair and just place and that good things happen to good people and bad things happen

to bad people. Thus, to maintain this belief, one must search for evidence to suggest that

victims instigated their misfortune (see Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994, for a review).

Ryan (1971) explains victim-blaming as a strategy to avoid the hard work of societal change.

He argues that by blaming victims for their misfortunes, society can then work to change

specific unfortunate individuals rather than change institutional and widespread prejudices.

Therefore, instead of examining why some men stalk women and why that is viewed as

normal, one can examine women for characteristics about them that must have caused them to be stalked."


Article title: The relationship of optimism, empathy, internality, interpersonal violence, and gender to rape blame

under four victim conditions

Journal title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International:-Section-B:-The-Sciences-and-Engineering

Database to look in: Psychinfo

APA citation:

Moonstarr, M. (2000). The relationship of optimism, empathy, internality, interpersonal

violence, and gender to rape blame under four victim conditions. Dissertation-Abstracts-

International:-Section-B:-The-Sciences-and-Engineering, 61(3-B ), 1699.


The relationships of optimism, rape empathy, locus of control, degree of acceptance of

interpersonal violence, and gender upon attributions of rape blame were examined in four

experimental conditions. The conditions were four variations on one rape scenario. These

conditions varied a positive or negative character portrayal and a positive or negative

behavior portrayal of the victim. Behavioral and characterological assessments of victim

blameworthiness were obtained. The dependent measures for victim blameworthiness

were an index for behavioral blame and an index for character blame. Predictor variables

selected for study were those indicated in the literature as potential mediators for rape

blame attributions. Participants were 321 undergraduate and graduate students at Howard


A questionnaire was used to assess type of blame attributed to the victim based on the

scenario as well as demographic and attitude information. Other blame sources and victim

experiences were also examined. It was hypothesized that participants would be expected

to blame a rape victim's behavior rather than character, the higher their optimism, empathy

, internal locus of control and rejection of interpersonal violence. Further, it was hypothesized

that blame type would vary dependent upon participant's gender and victim descriptions.

Hypotheses were partially confirmed. Attitudes found to be related to victim-blame were

primarily interpersonal violence and secondarily empathy. In the conditions of negative

behavior portrayals for victims, despite character, higher behavioral blame was attributed.

It appeared that a victim's behavior rather than character influenced attributions of either

behavior or character victim-blame. Finally, regardless of victim description, men blamed

the victim's character significantly more than women did. As another research interest,

age was examined in relation to type of victim-blame. Students over the age of 25 placed

significantly less behavioral blame on the rape victim. Breaking this analysis up by

scenario did not reveal any differences in this pattern. A final research inquiry was added

by examining change in victim-blame should the rape victim insist upon condom use.

Results indicated an increase in both victim-blames, which was augmented in the scenarios

with negative character descriptions.

Additional article:

McCaul, K. D., Veltum, L. G., Boyechko, V., & Crawford, J. J. (1990). Understanding attributions of victim blame

for rape: Sex, violence, and forseeability. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 1-26.

To find these and further journal articles click here


Raine, N. (1998). After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back. New York: Crown Publications, Inc., .

Reviews available from amazon

Professional Review:

"Very soon after she was raped, Raine discovers that talking about the rape--even to her closest friends and

family--was "dangerous." Throughout the book, Raine describes how she negotiates the mine-field of others'

resistance, and she reflects on how their resistance impacted her. This focus allows for a deep and insightful

appreciation of how our cultural myths about women and rape work to marginalize survivors' speech and, as a

result, dramatically impede the healing process. She succinctly and powerfully sums up this dilemma, "Other

people's embarrassment or discomfort makes me feel as if I were the rapist's co-criminal, an accomplice who is

'confessing' something ... everyone keeps saying I need to 'come to terms' 'integrate' the rape into my life.

[How] can I come to terms if the terms are not shared?" (pp. 212-213)." Cosgrove, Lisa PhD


For further online resources on victim blame and rape click here. Type in "victim blame and rape or sexual

assault". (no quotation marks)

Google research-only online resources for victim blame.








































































































































































































































































































































































































































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