Ethnicity, Gender, and Ethnic Matching on Perceptions of Rape Victims

 

Catherine Brouillard, Brett Wheeler, & Lisa Mori

California State University, Fullerton

&

Lawrence Schneider

University of North Texas

 

ABSTRACT

The present study investigated the effects of ethnic matching of observer and rape victim on attitudes towards rape victims, victim blame, and perceived emotional damages sustained by the rape victim. Males held more negative views toward rape victims, were less likely to hold the rapist responsible for the rape, and were less likely to endorse that psychological symptoms of distress would arise as a result of the rape. Caucasians held positive views of rape victims and were less likely to engage in victim blaming than Asians. No differences in estimated emotional damages sustained by the rape victim emerged across ethnicity. Results are discussed within the context of gender and cross cultural differences regarding perceptions of rape victims and their implications.

 

 

There is a growing body of research evidence that ethnicity and culture influence attitudes and beliefs about sexual assault. Asians are more likely to endorse belief in rape myths and to engage in victim blaming in response to rape scenarios than their Anglo counterparts (Mori et al., 1995). However, little is known about the potential effect of ethnicity of the victim on these attitudes, and whether or not similar ethnic backgrounds across perceiver and identified victim (e.g., ethnic matching) further influence views of sexual assault.

The present study investigated attitudes toward rape victims, victim blaming, and perceived psychological damage due to being raped across Asian and Caucasian college students. The following hypotheses were made:

 

1.††††††††††† Males will report more negative views of rape victims, will be more likely to blame rape victims, and will be less likely to anticipate psychological distress symptoms resulting from rape than female participants.

2.††††††††††† Asians will endorse greater negativity towards rape victims, be more likely to blame rape victims for the assault, and will underestimate psychological distress as a result of the rape than their Anglo counterparts.

3.††††††††††† It is predicted that participants in the ethnic match condition will be more sympathetic in their views of rape victims, will be less likely to blame the victim, and more likely to endorse psychological symptoms of distress stemming as a result of the rape than participants who are ethnically dissimilar from the victim.

 

METHOD

 

Participants

Participants were Asian (n= 113; 38.7%) and Caucasian (n= 179; 61.3%) undergraduates. Sixty-four percent (64.4%) of participants were female, 35.6% were male. Ages ranged from 18 to 59, with a mean age of 20.

Measures

1. †††††††† Attitudes Toward Rape Victims Scale (ARVS; Ward, 1988).

2.†††††††† Rape Scenario Reaction Questionnaire (RQ; Schneider et al., 1994)

3.†††††††† Rape Scenario Psychological Distress Symptoms Scale (PDSS)

 

Procedure

Participants were recruited from various psychology classes and received course credit in exchange for their participation. Participants were run in small groups in a campus laboratory where they completed paper-and-pencil questionnaires consisting of a demographic information sheet, the ARVS, the RQ, and the PDSS.††

 

RESULTS

 

A 2 (Gender) X 2 (Ethnicity: Asian and Caucasian) X 2 (Condition: ethnic match and ethnic mismatch with victim) MANOVA yielded main effects for both Gender (F(4,281)=6.94, p=.000) and Ethnicity (F(4,281)=22.806, p=.000), but not for Condition. No significant interaction effects were seen.

Men held more negative views toward rape victims, were less likely to hold the rapist completely responsible for the assault, and were less likely to perceive emotional damage than their female counterparts (see Table 1). Caucasians held positive general views of rape victims and were less likely to engage in victim blaming than Asian participants. No differences in estimated emotional damages sustained by the rape victim emerged across participant ethnicity (see Table 2).

 

DISCUSSION

 

As predicted, males and Asians were more likely to hold negative attitudes toward rape victims and to engage in victim blaming than their female and Anglo counterparts, respectively. Males also estimated less psychological distress as a result of the rape than their female peers. Contrary to hypotheses, ethnic matching across participant and rape victim did not significantly influence these views.

Gender differences on attitudes toward rape victims have been well documented (e.g., Holcomb et al., 1991; Jenkins & Dambrot, 1987; Kanaker et al., 1985). Our findings here are consistent with prior research. Similarly, ethnic differences in this area across Asian and White participants have been reported in the past (Mori et al., 1995). However, the lack of effect for Condition (ethnic match/mismatch across observer/rape victim) was surprising.

Other investigators have reported conflicting findings for ethnicity on perceptions of rape. For example, Hymes et al. (1993) found that jurors were more likely to render guilty verdicts in cases of acquaintance rape when victims were of a different race than their assailant. Vrij and Fischer (1996), on the other hand, found no effect of ethnicity on white observersí perceptions of a black or white rape victim. Further research is needed to identify the specific contributions of culture and ethnicity on attitudes toward and beliefs about rape, rape victims, and the psychological consequences of rape.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Holcomb, D., Holcomb, L., Sondag, K., & Williams, N. (1991). Attitudes about date rape: Gender differences among college students. College Student Journal, 25, 434-439.

 

Hymes, R. W., Leinhart, M., Rowe, S., & Rogers, W. (1993). Acquaintance rape: The effect of race of defendant and race of victim on white juror decisions. Journal of Social Psychology, 5, 627-634.

 

Jenkins, M., & Dambrot, F. (1987). The attribution of date rape: Observersí attitudes and sexual experiences and the dating situation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 17, 875-895.

 

Kanaker, S., Pinto, N., & Mazumdar, D. (1985). Causal and moral responsibility of victims of rape and robbery. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 15, 622-637.

 

Mori, L., Bernat, J., Glenn, P., Selle, L., & Zarate, M. (1995). Attitudes toward rape: Gender and ethnic differences across Asian and Caucasian college students. Sex Roles, 32, 457-467.

 

Schneider, L., Ee, J., & Aronson, H. (1994). Effects of victim gender and physical vs. psychological trauma/injury on observersí perceptions of sexual assault and its aftereffects. Sex Roles, 30, 793-808.

 

Vrij, A. & Fischer, A. (1996). The role of displays of emotions and ethnicity in judgments of rape victims. International Review of Victimology, 4, 255-265.

 

Ward, C. (1988). The attitudes toward rape victims scale. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12, 127-146.

 

 


Table 1

Gender Comparisons

 

Male

(n=104)

Female (n=188)

 

M

SD

M

SD

ARVS*

34.15

11.32

26.88

11.41

Blame Victim

11.46

3.68

10.55

3.40

Blame Rapist**

25.20

4.11

26.31

3.87

PDSS*

78.13

10.71

82.42

10.78

 

Attitudes toward Rape Victim Scale (ARVS): Range=0-100 (higher scores represent more negative views of rape victims).

Reaction Questionnaire (RQ)-Blame Victim:Range=5-30 (higher scores represent more victim blame).

RQ-Blame Rapist:Range=5-30 (higher scores represent more rapist blame).

Psychological Distress Symptoms Scale (PDSS):Range=17-102 (higher scores represent greater psychological distress thought to result as a function of rape).

*†† Means differ at the p<.005 level.

** Means differ at the p<.03 level.

 

 

Table 2

Ethnic Comparisons

 

Asian (n=113)

White

(n=179)

 

M

SD

M

SD

ARVS*

35.81

11.00

25.47

10.64

Blame Victim*

12.47

3.46

9.87

3.18

Blame Rapist**

25.10

4.23

26.44

3.74

PDSS

79.53

10.99

81.75

10.84

 

Attitudes toward Rape Victim Scale (ARVS): Range=0-100 (higher scores represent more negative views of rape victims).

Reaction Questionnaire (RQ)-Blame Victim:Range=5-30 (higher scores represent more victim blame).

RQ-Blame Rapist:Range=5-30 (higher scores represent more rapist blame).

Psychological Distress Symptoms Scale (PDSS):Range=17-102 (higher scores represent greater psychological distress thought to result as a function of rape).

*†† Means differ at the p=.000 level.

** Means differ at the p<.003 level.