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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


    "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."


    Why does victim blame happen?

    Just World Hypothesis

    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."

    "The tendency to blame rape victims has resulted in competing theories to explain those conclusions reached by fault-finding observers. Observers' motivational needs have been broached by the "just world" theory (Lerner & Miller, 1978) and the need to protect one's own sense of invulnerability (Shaver, 1970; Walster, 1966)." (Schneider et. al., 1994)

    The most well known theory 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.

    "Though a rape victim may not sustain substantial physical tissue damage, rapist may inflict significant psychological trauma by asserting uninvited domination, control, and power over the unwilling other (e.g., Brownsmiller, 1975)."(Schneider et. al., 1994)


    What can you expect from a rape survivor?

    Behaviour characteristics involved in Rape Trauma Syndrome.

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

    • expressed


    • 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. "


    Is victim blame real?

    "New poll finds a third of people believe women who flirt partially responsible for being raped"


    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)

    Understand the victim reaction cycle and the Reactions to victimization.

    Try using an exercise from the Courage to Heal- page 115.

    Another aspect to consider in understanding self blame is when the victim identifies with the perpetator's world view in order to understand what will help them survive. One such phenomenon is known as the Stockholm Syndrome.

    "Victims of especially severe abuse often "identify with the abuser" in order to survive. This means she will actually begin to agree with the criticisms and perspectives of the abuser while her own personality, opinions, and views fade to the background. This is a serious set of psychological events called the "Stockholm Syndrome.""

    "It has been found that four situations or conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome. These four situations can be found in hostage, severe abuse, and abusive relationships:

    - The presence of a perceived threat to one's physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat
    - The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim
    - Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
    - The perceived inability to escape the situation

    ...the victim has the sense they are always "walking on eggshells" – fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst. For their survival, they begin to see the world through the abuser's perspective. They begin to fix things that might prompt an outburst, act in ways they know makes the abuser happy, or avoid aspects of their own life that may prompt a Stockholm Syndrome there is a daily preoccupation with "trouble". Trouble is any individual, group, situation, comment, casual glance, or cold meal that may produce a temper tantrum or verbal abuse from the controller or abuser...The abusing partner may threaten to spread rumors or tell intimate details or secrets. A type of blackmail using intimacy is often found in these situations."

    If someone verbally or physically harasses a rape victim or survivor (known as survivor bashing) 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 - 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 survivor.

    To search for more victim blame articles try the NCJRS database

    Victim Blame Bibliography

    Online resources (Back to menu)


    The Just World Theory

    Author: Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez

    Issues in Ethics - V. 3, N. 2 Spring 1990


    "The need to see victims as the recipients of their just deserts can be explained by what psychologists call the Just World Hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve. Such a belief plays an important function in our lives since in order to plan our lives or achieve our goals we need to assume that our actions will have predictable consequences. Moreover, when we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply lazy, the fallen star must be an adulterer. "


    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: " Includes a bibliography and

    online resources.



    Blaming the Target of Sexual Harassment: Impact of Gender Role, Sexist Attitudes, and Work Role - Statistical Data Included

    Author: Margaret De Judicibus, Marita P. McCabe


    This study was conducted to examine factors associated with blaming the target of sexual harassment.

    Participants' experiences of sexual harassment, sexist attitudes, gender, gender role identity, age, worker

    or student status, and belief in a just world were included as independent variables. Level of blame was

    evaluated using a series of 12 vignettes that manipulated the gender of the target and harasser as well as

    the seriousness of the harassing behavior. The sample comprised 30 female and 32 male workers from

    two workplaces, whose ages ranged from 18 to 65 (M = 35) years, and 102 female and 18 male

    university students whose ages ranged from 17 to 40 (M = 21) years. Approximately 70% of the sample

    were from Anglo Australian background, and 30% from European, Middle Eastern or Asian background.

    Females experienced more sexual harassment than males did, although the male rate was higher than

    expected. Although the majority of subjects attributed little blame to the target, males blamed the target

    of sexual harassment more than females did, and workers blamed the target of harassment more than

    university students did. Worker status, sexist attitudes, and gender significantly predicted blame for the

    total sample. Gender-typing increased the blame of the target by males but not by females. Attribution of

    blame was significantly influenced by worker versus student status, which supports the social

    psychological perspective that gender-related behavior is context dependent. The findings from this study

    suggest that organisational culture and environment influence respondents' attitudes to sexually

    harassing behavior.

    Online Popular Resources

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    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."


    Online Resources

    Victim Blame- "the extraordinary focus on what women should do to prevent rape reinforces one of the most troubling myths about rape, that victims not perpetrators are responsible for sexual assault. That's simply not true."


    Victims of sexual assault often share some blame for the assault.

    False. Adult and child victims of sexual abuse are never to blame for the assault, regardless of their behavior. Because of the age difference, children are unable to legally consent to sexual acts. They are often made to feel like willing participants, which further contributes to their shame and guilt.

    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.

    Find this journal article


    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.

    Find this journal article


    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.

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    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."

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    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.)

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    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."

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    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."

    Find this journal article


    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.

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    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."

    Find this journal article


    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.

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    Article title: The association between the offender–victim relationship, severity of offence and attribution of blame in mentally disordered offenders.

    Journal title: Psychology, Crime & Law

    Database to look in: Psychinfo

    APA citation:

    Fox, Simone. (2000). The association between the offender victim relationship, severity of offence and attribution of blame in mentally disordered offenders. Psychology, Crime & Law Sep2005, Vol. 11 Issue 3, p255-264 10p


    The aim of this research was to investigate the association between the offender–victim relationship, severity of violence and attribution of blame for a violent act. Data were collected from 65 male psychiatric inpatients from two secure units. Participants were divided into three groups according to how well they knew their victim: victim well-known, victim acquaintance and victim stranger. Violent acts were further ranked according to offence severity. Participants were administered the Quick Test (QT) and the Gudjonsson Blame Attribution Inventory (GBAI). Although there was a trend towards higher guilt attributions when the victim was well-known to the perpetrator, this relationship was complicated by the severity of the violent act. The most severe ranking of offence (i.e. murder/manslaughter) was most common in the offender group who knew their victim well. Furthermore, guilt-feeling attributions were highest in the most severe ranking of offence. The implications of these findings for assessment and intervention programmes are considered.

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    Article title: The Effect of Participant Sex, Victim Dress, and Traditional Attitudes on Causal Judgments for Marital Rape Victims.

    Journal title: Journal of Family Violence

    Database to look in: Psychinfo

    APA citation:

    The effect of participant sex, victim dress, and traditional attitudes on causal judgments for marital rape victims. (Author Abstract). Mark A. Whatley. Journal of Family Violence 20.3 (June 2005): p191(10). From InfoTrac OneFile.


    This study investigated the effects of participant sex, victim dress, and attitudes influencing the tendency to blame a marital rape victim. College undergraduates completed the Attitudes toward Marriage Scale, an intervening cognitive task, and a read fictitious scenario of a marital rape incident where the victim was dressed somberly or seductively. Participants then completed a brief questionnaire. As predicted, males rated the victim more deserving of the attack than females. As predicted, the suggestively dressed victim was rated more responsible and deserving than the somberly dressed victim. As predicted, participants holding more traditional attitudes toward marriage were more likely to assign more victim responsibility and deservingness than participants with more egalitarian attitudes. These findings are discussed within an attitudinal framework. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved) Adolescence (13-17 yrs) Adulthood (18 yrs & older) Young Adulthood (18-29 yrs) Thirties (30-39 yrs) Middle Age (40-64 yrs)

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    Article title: Victim Derogation and Victim Enhancement as Alternate Routes to System Justification.

    Journal title: Psychological Science

    Database to look in: Psychinfo

    APA citation:

    Kay, Aaron C., Jost, John T. & Young, Sean (2005)
    Victim Derogation and Victim Enhancement as Alternate Routes to System Justification.
    Psychological Science 16 (3), 240-246.
    doi: 10.1111/ j.0956-7976.2005.00810.x


    Numerous studies have documented the potential for victim-blaming attributions to justify the status quo. Recent work suggests that complementary, victim-enhancing stereotypes may also increase support for existing social arrangements. We seek to reconcile these seemingly contradictory findings by proposing that victim derogation and victim enhancement are alternate routes to system justification, with the preferred route depending on the perception of a causal link between trait and outcome. Derogating "losers" (and lionizing "winners") on traits (e.g., intelligence) that are causally related to outcomes (e.g., wealth vs. poverty) serves to increase system justification, as does compensating "losers" (and downgrading "winners") on traits (e.g., physical attractiveness) that are causally unrelated to those outcomes. We provide converging evidence using system-threat and stereotype-activation paradigms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved) Adulthood (18 yrs & older)

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    Article title: Belief in a just world and social perception: evidence for automatic activation

    Journal title: J Soc Psychol

    APA citation:

    Murray JD, Spadafore JA, McIntosh WD. (2005) Belief in a just world and social perception: evidence for automatic activation. J Soc Psychol. Feb;145(1):35-47.

    Database to look in: PubMed


    The authors tested the hypothesis that beliefs in a just world are automatically activated and used in social perception. Under the guise of a perceptual vigilance task, the authors exposed 34 undergraduate women preconsciously to words that were either rape-related or neutral. Immediately after the exposure, participants read a date scenario that was ambiguous with respect to the man's aggressiveness and the extent to which the woman was responsible for the man's behavior. Afterwards, all participants evaluated the target man and woman on an impression task. The primary finding was that participants holding stronger beliefs in a just world perceived the target woman more negatively after experiencing the rape-related prime words than after experiencing the neutral words. This pattern is consistent with a research literature that shows that believers in a just world will often "blame the victim" in cases of rape. The present findings are important because they provide evidence that general, orienting beliefs are automatically activated in a manner similar to that shown by stereotype beliefs. The authors discussed implications for social perception.

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    Additional articles:

    Bibliography of a victim blame 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)

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