Rape victim and perpetrator blame and the Just World hypothesis: The influence of victim gender and age

Article (PDF Available)inJournal of Sexual Aggression · January 2012with1,603 Reads
DOI: 10.1080/13552600.2012.683455
Abstract
Victims of rape are sometimes blamed for the assaults against them. Research has examined primarily female victims; much less is known about men as victims and whether victim age affects attributions of victim blame. Furthermore, the study investigated the effects of Belief in a Just World (BJW) on blame attributions. Employing a vignette-type experimental study with a 2 (gender of participant)×2 (victim's gender)×2 (victim's age)×2 (participant BJW score) between-subjects design and several measures of blame attributions towards victim and perpetrator as dependent variables, a community sample (n = 164) participated. The main results were as hypothesised, namely that young male victims were attributed more blame, particularly by participants scoring high on BJW. Overall, victim blame level was low and perpetrator blame was high, and BJW was a powerful predictor of blame attributions.
Rape victim and perpetrator blame and the
Just World hypothesis: The influence of
victim gender and age
Leif A. Stro
¨
mwall, Helen Alfredsson & Sara Landstro
¨
m
University of Gothenburg, Department of Psychology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Abstract Victims of rape are sometimes blamed for the assaults against them. Research has
examined primarily female victims; much less is known about men as victims and whether victim age
affects attributions of victim blame. Furthermore, the study investigated the effects of Belief in a Just
World (BJW) on blame attributions. Employing a vignette-type experimental study with a 2 (gender
of participant)
2 (victim’s gender)
2 (victim’s age)
2 (participant BJW score) between-subjects
design and several measures of blame attributions towards victim and perpetrator as dependent
variables, a community sample (n 164) participated. The main results were as hypothesised,
namely that young male victims were attributed more blame, particularly by participants scoring high
on BJW. Overall, victim blame level was low and perpetrator blame was high, and BJW was a
powerful predictor of blame attributions.
Keywords Belief in a Just World; perpetrator blame attributions; rape victim age; rape victim
gender; secondary victimisation; victim blame attributions
Introduction
Sometimes victims of rape are perceived in negative terms, which may cause so-called
‘secondary victimisation’’ (Campbell & Raja, 1999). Research has shown that under certain
circumstances people attribute blame to the victim. Some studies investigate behavioural
blame, which concerns the victim’s actions (e.g. walking alone at night), others investigate
more stable characteristics of the victim (e.g. personality, gender) (see reviews by Pollard,
1992; Whatley, 1996; Grubb & Harrower, 2008). This study investigates the blaming of
young and middle-aged male and female rape victims in a hypothetical scenario.
The study of blame attributions to rape victims has considered mainly female victims.
Females are, indeed, more often victims of rape than men. Moreover, rape is considered to be
an under-reported crime in general, and even more so for male victims (Chapleau, Oswald, &
Russell, 2008; Karman, 2010). The research on victim blaming in rape cases reflects the
imbalance by using scenarios in which mainly female victims are portrayed. Davies and
Rogers (2006) reviewed the burgeoning literature on male victims and concluded that male
rape victims tend to be blamed more than female victims. The explanation put forth is that
*Corresponding author: E-mail: leif.stromwall@psy.gu.se
Journal of Sexual Aggression
2012, 111, iFirst article
ISSN 1355-2600 print/1742-6545 online # 2012 National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13552600.2012.683455
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societal stereotypes dictate that a man*compared to a woman*should be able to fight back
or escape the attacker, and is therefore more to be blamed if raped. In a descriptive study,
Walker, Archer, and Davies (2005) provided captivating descriptions by male rape victims
regarding the short- and long-term consequences of being raped, and whether they had
chosen to report the rape to the police. In fact, only five of 40 victims had reported the rape,
and four reported subsequently having regretted it, as they had not been met with interest and
sympathy. One participants case went to court and he said that the court hearing was a worse
ordeal than the rape itself, because he felt he was held responsible for the incident.
Gender differences might also be found for those who make social judgements of rape
victims. Research has found that men blame the victim most often to a larger extent than do
women (e.g. Whatley & Riggio, 1993). However, some studies have failed to find gender
differences, and a few studies have found higher levels of victim blaming by female
participants (see Grubb & Harrower, 2008, for a literature review). The combined result of
the research findings on victims gender and gender of research participant is that male victims
should be attributed the highest levels of blame by male participants (Davies, Rogers, &
Whitelegg, 2009).
As yet, the role played by the victims age in both victim and perpetrator blame
attributions is unknown. Some studies examine blame attribution when children and
adolescents are victims (e.g. Back & Lips, 1998; Davies et al., 2009), but no published
research has examined the different ages of adult rape victims. In a conference paper,
Bothamley, Agbo-Quaye, and Wager (2010) report more attributed blame to a younger than
an older rape victim. Younger crime victims may be seen as less credible and less responsible
than older victims, and may therefore be blamed to a higher degree (cf. Davies & Rogers,
2009, who found that blame and credibility ratings were related to the social perception of
child sexual abuse at different age levels). A middle-aged person might be seen as more
responsible, knowledgeable and less risk-taking*and not put him- or herself in a vulnerable
position*than a young adult, and therefore be attributed more blame. Alternatively, the
young adult might be perceived as being physically stronger, more capable of fending off an
attack and able to run away. Consequently, the young adult may be attributed more blame
than the middle-aged person if raped.
If a rape victim is considered blameworthy, the level of blame attributed to the
perpetrator of that rape should be reduced (e.g. Krahe´, 1991; Whatley & Riggio, 1993). In
the published research, two different approaches have been used: either having participants
rating blame on one dimension (from ‘‘all blame to the perpetrator’’ to ‘‘all blame to the
victim’’), or on two separate scales. Arguably, a participant who reads the scenario and does
not think that the event described is a rape at all finds it difficult to assign low blame ratings on
a scale that presupposes that there is blame to be assigned, as on the scale ranging from all
blame to the victim to all blame to the perpetrator. We therefore used separate measures of
victim and perpetrator blame, both of which ranged from zero levels of blame.
The theoretical foundation of this study is the Just World Theory (Lerner, 1980; see
Dalbert, 2009, for a recent review of the concept). Victim blaming is explained by arguing
that there are no innocent victims. If something bad has happened to someone, he/she must
have done something to deserve it, or even cause it. Accordingly, people will blame the victim
to ensure that a rape simply could not happen to good people (i.e. themselves). The Just
World theory has often been used as an ad hoc explanation in victim-blaming studies, and not
tested in experimental designs (but see Sleath & Bull, 2010 for an exception). Because Just
World theory rests on a general Belief in a Just World (BJW) that can be measured, it can be
used as an independent variable in experimental studies. Many studies have included BJW
and correlated it with victim blame (e.g. Rye, Greatrix, & Enright, 2006; Sakall
ı
-Ug
˘
urlu, S
ı
la
2 L. A. Stro
¨
mwall et al.
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Yalc
¸ı
n, & Glick, 2007), but not tested the causal effect of Just-World beliefs on the propensity
to blame the victim; see Furnham (1998, 2003) for a further review of BJW measures and
research using the BJW construct. In this study we wanted a short measure of Just World
beliefs in general, and therefore chose the general BJW scale, developed originally by Dalbert,
Montada and Schmitt (1987). This measure has been used extensively in different settings,
and has been shown to have satisfactory psychometric properties (Dalbert, 2000; Furnham,
2003).
In the literature review by Grubb and Harrower (2008), using undergraduate students,
the authors noted that practically all published research on victim blaming showed a clear
sample bias. Some exceptions can be found, such as Davies et al. (2009) using a community
sample, and Davies, Smith and Rogers (2009) using a sample of police officers. The present
study includes a community sample in order to correct for the identified bias. By investigating
people from a wider range of occupations and areas, we hope that the study presents a more
representative view of the publics view on rape and blame attributions. In addition, we believe
this study is the first to examine victim blaming experimentally in Sweden. Most previous
research has emanated from either the United States or the United Kingdom (e.g. Grubb &
Harrower, 2008). By providing data from an additional country, the scientific knowledge of
victim blame attributions is enriched.
The present study
This study employed a hypothetical scenario methodology to depict the sexual assault of a
victim, perpetrated by a 30-year old man. Manipulated variables were victim age (20 versus
46 years old) and victim gender (woman versus man), with attribution ratings subsequently
compared across participant gender (woman versus man) and level of BJW (low versus high).
A community sample participated in the experiment in order to enhance the generalisability
of the study.
A number of hypotheses were tested, based on the literature reviewed above. First, we
expected that the participants would attribute more blame to the perpetrator than to the
victim. Secondly, participants scoring highly on BJW would attribute more victim blame and
less perpetrator blame than participants scoring low on BJW. Thirdly, male participants*
more than female*would blame the male victim, especially those male participants scoring
highly on BJW. Fourthly, the participants would attribute more blame towards the younger
victim (especially the male) than the middle-aged victim, and this was expected to be more
pronounced for participants scoring highly on BJW.
Method
Design
The experiment had a 2 (victims gender)2 (victims age: young versus middle-aged) 2
(gender of participant)2 (BJW: low versus high) between-subjects design. The main
dependent variables were measures of victim blame and perpetrator blame.
Participants
The sample consisted of 164 community members (80 women, 84 men; mean age 39 years,
range 1688 years). Regarding resident status, 64 participants lived in a large city (defined as
Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmo
¨
), 11 lived in a large community (100,000250,000
Belief in a Just World and blame attribution 3
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inhabitants), 40 in a medium-sized community (45,000100,000 inhabitants), 40 in a smaller
community (5000 to 45,000 inhabitants) and seven in a rural area (fewer than 5000
inhabitants). In terms of education level, 14 had compulsory schooling, 70 had upper
secondary schooling and 80 had university schooling.
All participants received a small compensation in the form of a lottery ticket (worth
approximately £2.50). The participants were allocated randomly to experimental conditions.
Materials
The questionnaire booklet contained five pages: the rape scenario, the ratings of victim blame,
the ratings of perpetrator blame, the BJW questionnaire and demographic data (e.g. gender,
age), always in the same order. Also included was an item in which the participants indicated
their perceptions of the event described in the scenario as a rape. Prior to the data collection
proper, all materials (i.e. vignettes and response scales) had been pilot-tested (n 24) for
understanding and clarity, and subsequently improved in order to develop a valid instrument.
Debriefing details were included at the end of the questionnaire.
Scenarios. In four different scenarios, the gender and age of the victim were manipulated. The
victim was described as either young (20 years) or middle-aged (46 years), and either male
(Peter) or female (Anna). All other aspects were held constant. The scenario had the form of a
short (approximately 500 words) newspaper article describing an event in which the victim
was walking home from work alone late at night and just as she/he reached the front door of
her/his home a man in his 30s (previously unknown to the victim) appeared, pushed the
victim inside and physically forced himself sexually on the victim. The word ‘‘rape’’ was not
used in the scenarios to avoid a possible bias in the subsequent ratings (Davies & Rogers,
2006).
Victim blame scale. Four items measuring aspects of victim blame were rated by the
participants on 10-cm long lines, with endpoints of 0 and 100%. An example of an item is
‘‘To what extent do you think that Peter [the victim] can be blamed for the event?’’. Other
items asked for victims responsibility, fault and acting improperly. The four items were
summed into one victim blame scale. Cronbachs a was .67.
Perpetrator blame scale. Four items measuring aspects of perpetrator blame were rated. These
items mirrored the victim blame items, exchanging the name of the victim with ‘‘the
aggressor’’. The four items were summed into the perpetrator blame scale. Cronbachs a was
.63
1
.
BJW. The BJW is a six-item measure of the general BJW (Dalbert et al., 1987)
2
. Responses
are given on a six-point response scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 6 (strongly disagree).
For the current study, the English version was translated into Swedish by one of the
experimenters, and back-translated into English by a bilingual psychologist. Cronbachs a was
.78, and the items were summed into one and then median split, thus creating two groups of
participants: scoring low and high on BJW.
Procedure
The participants were approached in public places in which people were sitting and/or
waiting, such as train and bus stations, shopping malls and libraries, and were asked to
volunteer in a short study (approximately 10 minutes). Fewer than 10% declined. The
participants were informed of the sensitive nature of the research and consent was obtained.
4 L. A. Stro
¨
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The participants were assigned randomly to one of the four questionnaire booklets, each
including a different scenario. The experimenter waited at a few metres distance while the
participant completed the questionnaire.
Results
On a general level, the participants attributed little blame to the victim [mean 2.51,
standard deviation (s.d.) 4.63] and considerable blame to the perpetrator (mean 38.85,
s.d.2.67). The difference was significant: pairwise t
(161)
74.98, p B.001, d5.89. Despite
this general tendency, there were differences between the conditions in both levels of victim
blame and perpetrator blame attributions.
In order to investigate differences in levels of victim blame attribution, a 2 (victims
gender)2 (victims age: young versus middle-aged) 2 (gender of participant)2 (BJW:
low versus high) between-subjects analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted, with the
victim blame measure as dependent variable. See Table I for the descriptive statistics and
Table II for the outcome of the in total 15 effects tested in the ANOVA. Five of these were
significant (at a .05), and are presented here in detail. The main effect of BJW was
significant; as expected, participants high on BJW (mean 3.62, s.d.5.54) attributed more
blame to the victim than participants low on BJW (mean 1.40, s.d.3.16). The victims
gendervictims age interaction was analysed further with a simple effects test, showing
reversed mean patterns within levels of victim age. The female victim was attributed more
blame when she was described as middle-aged, and the male victim was attributed more
blame when he was described as young. The simple effects post-hoc test for the victims
ageBJW interaction showed that when the victim was described as young, there was a
difference between those scoring high (mean 4.06, s.d.5.69) and low (mean 0.90,
s.d.1.76) on BJW (pB.01). When the victim was middle-aged, no difference was found.
The victims gendervictims age BJW interaction was analysed further by running
supplementary tests separately for participants low and high on BJW. For those low on BJW,
no differences were obtained. For those high on BJW, a victims gendervictims age
interaction was found, F
(1, 73)
13.08, pB.001, h
2
.15, and simple effects tests showed that
when the victim was described as young, there was a difference between female (mean 2.08,
s.d.3.83) and male (mean 3.38, s.d.5.53) victims (p B.05). When the victim was
middle-aged, no difference was found.
The victims agegender of participantBJW interaction was analysed by running
further tests separately for participants scoring low and high on BJW. For those low on BJW,
Ta b l e I . Mean victim blame attributions across victim gender, victim age, Belief in a Just World (BJW) and
participant gender
Male victim Female victim
Young Middle-aged Young Middle-aged
BJW Participant gender Mean s.d. Mean s.d. Mean s.d. Mean s.d.
Low Female 0.66 0.38 1.20 3.45 0.50 0.44 1.73 3.30
Male 1.38 2.93 1.33 3.96 0.83 0.70 3.08 4.92
High Female 5.75 6.84 1.76 2.29 2.23 3.60 5.86 6.45
Male 14.80 3.11 2.13 2.91 3.25 5.23 3.41 7.78
s.d.: standard deviation.
Belief in a Just World and blame attribution 5
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no differences were obtained. For those high on BJW, a victims agegender of participant
interaction was found, F
(1, 73)
4.62, p B.05, h
2
.06. An inspection of the mean values
indicated a reverse pattern within levels of victim age: the young victim was attributed more
blame by the female participants; the middle-aged victim was attributed more blame by
the male participants. Finally, the highest level of victim blame found for any combination of
the independent variables was for male participants scoring high on BJW who had read the
scenario in which the victim was young and male (see Table I).
In order to investigate differences in levels of perpetrator blame attribution, a 2 (victims
gender)2 (victims age) 2 (gender of participant)2 (BJW: low versus high) between-
subjects ANOVA was conducted, with the perpetrator blame measure as dependent variable.
See Table III for the descriptive statistics and Table IV for the outcome of effects tested in the
ANOVA. Three effects were significant and are detailed here. The main effect of BJW was
significant; as expected, participants scoring low on BJW (mean 39.16, s.d.2.01)
attributed more blame to the perpetrator than participants high on BJW (mean 38.52,
s.d 3.18). The victims gendervictims age interaction showed that the perpetrator was
attributed more blame when he attacked a young female victim (compared to young male
victim), and when he attacked a middle-aged male victim (compared to middle-aged female
Table II. Results of analysis of variance for the victim blame scale
Effect F
(1, 147)
p h
2
Gender victim 1.74 .19 .01
Age victim 2.09 .15 .01
Gender participant 2.95 .09 .02
BJW 21.54 .00 .13
Gender victimage victim 14.57 .00 .09
Gender victimgender participant 2.68 .10 .02
Gender victimBJW 3.38 .07 .02
Age victimgender participant 3.66 .06 .02
Age victimBJW 7.54 .01 .05
Gender participantBJW 0.79 .38 .00
Gender victimage victimgender participant 1.23 .27 .01
Gender victimage victimBJW 8.11 .00 .05
Gender victimgender participantBJW 3.61 .06 .02
Age victimgender participantBJW 4.19 .04 .03
Gender victimage victimgender participantBJW 0.34 .56 .00
BJW: Belief in a Just World.
Table III. Mean perpetrator blame attributions across victim gender, victim age, Belief in a Just World (BJW) and
participant gender
Male victim Female victim
Young Middle-aged Young Middle-aged
BJW Participant gender Mean s.d. Mean s.d. Mean s.d. Mean s.d.
Low Female 39.13 0.82 39.04 2.14 39.63 0.70 38.61 4.09
Male 38.27 2.18 39.67 0.71 39.77 0.37 39.36 1.43
High Female 37.98 2.98 38.44 2.55 39.21 2.66 38.21 3.46
Male 33.75 0.35 39.52 1.21 38.52 4.44 38.45 3.44
s.d.: standard deviation.
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victim). Finally, the victims agegender of participant interaction showed that the male and
female participants did not differ in levels of perpetrator blame when the victim was young,
but when the victim was described as middle-aged the male participants attributed more
blame to the perpetrator than did the female participants.
When analysing the answers on the degree to which the participants judged the described
event as a rape, the mean value was very high: 9.80 on the 010 scale. There were no
condition differences.
Discussion
Overall, the tested hypotheses were supported. As expected, victim blame attribution was
lower than the levels of perpetrator blame. Despite the fact that the scenarios or instructions
never included the word ‘‘rape’’ the participants, regardless of condition, agreed on viewing
the described event as a rape. Perhaps the scenario used was not ambiguous enough to
produce higher levels of victim blame and lower levels of perpetrator blame than we obtained.
Alternatively, the participants genuinely did not think a victim of rape should bear any part of
the blame. Holding true, this would, of course, be a very positive finding.
However, even though the level of victim blame was generally low and level of perpetrator
blame was generally high, we found differences between the levels of the independent
variables. As expected, BJW emerged as a powerful predictor: participants high on BJW
attributed both more victim blame and less perpetrator blame. The main effect for victim
blame was qualified further with several interaction effects. Consistently, over all significant
interactions in which BJW was present, the main finding held true: those high on BJW
attributed more victim blame than did those low on BJW. In a recent study of male rape and
victim blame, Sleath and Bull (2010) failed to find support for the Just World theory.
However, in previous research the level of BJW has proved to be indicative of victim-blaming
levels (e.g. Whatley & Riggio, 1993). Support for BJW as predictor for victim blame (among
other concepts) was found in the comprehensive review by Hafer and Be`gue (2005) on all
experimental research on Just World theory.
Table IV. Results of analysis of variance for the perpetrator blame scale
Effect F
(1, 147)
p h
2
Gender victim 2.52 .12 .02
Age victim 1.81 .18 .01
Gender participant 0.62 .43 .00
BJW 6.31 .01 .04
Gender victimage victim 7.18 .01 .05
Gender victimgender participant 1.04 .31 .01
Gender victimBJW 0.85 .36 .01
Age victimgender participant 4.95 .03 .03
Age victimBJW 2.00 .16 .01
Gender participantBJW 1.29 .26 .01
Gender victimage victimgender participant 1.98 .16 .01
Gender victimage victimBJW 1.49 .22 .01
Gender victimgender participantBJW 0.18 .67 .00
Age victimgender participantBJW 1.22 .27 .01
Gender victimage victimgender participantBJW 0.88 .35 .01
BJW: Belief in a Just World.
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The victims age, the victims gender and level of BJW were the variables that, in
combination, explained most variability in victim blame attributions. As expected, a young
male victim was most blamed by male participants high on BJW. Previous studies have
investigated age differences such as children versus adults or adolescents versus adults (e.g.
Back & Lips, 1998; Davies et al., 2009). The current study shows that young adults and
middle-aged adults are evaluated differently. Clearly, this issue merits further investigation.
Most rape victims are young, and research has shown that especially young male rape
victims hesitate reporting to the police (Hodge & Canter, 1998). If the findings of the present
study reflect attributional biases held by a general audience, it implies added difficulties for
the younger rape victim above the burden of the rape itself. A young male victim can assume
correctly that most police officers are male and older than him. Therefore, he may expect to
be met by someone carrying negative attributional biases towards male rape victims in general
and perhaps mainly towards a young victim, whom other men think should be able to fight off
the attacker. Furthermore, the rape victim encounters other instances such as health services
that might subject the victim further to negative treatment (Campbell & Raja, 1999; Davies &
Rogers, 2006; Monk-Turner & Light (2010). A young male victim may risk being treated
negatively in several instances if met by people with attitudes such as those shown in the
present study, which contributes towards explaining the finding of male rape victims not
reporting to the police (Walker et al., 2005). Future studies could further investigate age
differences, and in addition study the effect of victim sexual orientation. In several papers,
Michelle Davies and colleagues have shown that gay male rape victims are often attributed
more blame than straight male victims (e.g. Davies & Rogers, 2006; Davies et al., 2009).
The age of the victim was of further importance in the perpetrator blame attributions.
When the perpetrator raped the young female victim the levels of blame were higher than for
the rape of the young male victim. Furthermore, the attributions of a middle-aged male victim
were larger than for a middle-aged female victim. These results were not hypothesised, and
are difficult to explain by extant theory. Speculatively, the results reflect differential attitudes
in society towards the rape of younger and middle-aged women and men. Raping a young
woman may be seen as worse (hence more blameworthy) than raping a young man, because
the female victim is seen as more vulnerable and has less chance of fighting off the attacker.
Altogether different reasons may have caused the results for the middle-aged victims. The
rape of a middle-aged man is very rare, for example, in media reports, and the surprise evoked
by reading about an unusual victim, seen traditionally as not in danger of being raped, may
have led to the very high perpetrator blame levels. Future research will investigate these novel
findings and speculations further.
Overall, few significant results emerged regarding the gender of participant. In fact, for
the victim blame attributions, the gender of participant was included in only one of seven
possible interactions, and the main effect was non-significant. Thus, contrary to most previous
research (as reviewed by Grubb & Harrower, 2008), we did not find that male participants are
more victim-blaming than females. Are Swedish men and women less different from each
other, in terms of having gender stereotypes and attributional styles concerning rape, than the
mainly US and UK individuals tested in previous victim blame research? Perhaps. As a society,
Sweden is more egalitarian than most other countries (e.g. Sevilla-Sanz, 2010), but research
has yet to investigate the impact of egalitarian sex roles on victim-blaming attributions. A
number of studies (e.g. Simonson & Mezydlo Subich, 1999) have found significant
correlations between gender-role traditionality and victim-blaming levels.
This study found somewhat differing result patterns for victim blame and perpetrator
blame (in line with, e.g. Davies & Rogers, 2009), suggesting that these constructs are not
simply mirroring each other (as suggested by, e.g. Pollard, 1992). Participants assigning high
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levels of blame on one do not by necessity assign low levels of blame on the other. Using
principal component analysis (PCA), Sleath and Bull (2010) found that victim blame and
perpetrator blame were different constructs, supporting the findings of the current study.
However, using the same methodology, Davies et al. (2009) received a single-factor solution.
Clearly, victim- and perpetrator-blame attributions are measured differently, which leads to
the dissimilar outcomes.
From an experimental study such as the present, we cannot draw any conclusion about
the attitudes of Swedish citizens in general. Future survey studies, preferably cross-national,
will show if there exist differences between countries (or parts of the world) in terms of
attributing blame to victims and perpetrators. Recently, Pedersen and Stro
¨
mwall (2011, in
preparation) found a tendency for a difference between Swedish and UK samples (less victim
blame in the Swedish sample); however, that too was a small-sample study.
Limitations
Although the present study provides valuable knowledge, it had some limitations. The
hypothetical scenarios used may be low in terms of ecological validity, but were utilised for
the sake of comparison with previous research in the area. A more specific shortcoming was
the low levels of consistency (alpha) obtained for the victim and perpetrator blame scales. The
low values may reflect the less homogeneous sample used (college students being more used
to answering questionnaire items uniformly), or a statistical fluke. However, the PCA (see
note 1) speaks for the dependent variables measuring victim and perpetrator blame
adequately, despite the low consistency levels.
Conclusions
This study provides an extension to the literature on blame in rape cases in using a non-
student sample more generalisable to the attitudes of the general public. The overall level of
victim blame was low and perpetrator blame high. Furthermore, the study showed that the
age of the victim was an important variable in predicting attributions of both victim and
perpetrator blame. In addition, the Just World theory, as operationalised by measuring BJW
and examining its effect on blame attributions, found strong support. Several suggestions for
future research have been put forward.
Acknowledgements
This research was supported nancially by The Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and
Support Authority.
Notes
1. A principal component analysis (PCA) with varimax rotation was conducted on the eight blame attribution items.
PCA extracted two factors which accounted for 54.2% of the variance. One factor pertained to perpetrator blame
(high, positive loadings for the four items measuring perpetrator blame, eigenvalue 3.02, variance explained 37.7%)
and one factor measured victim blame (high, positive loadings for the four victim blame items, eigenvalue 1.32,
variance explained 16.5%). Thus, the two dependent variables constructed did measure perpetrator and victim
blame attributions, respectively.
2. Dalbert, C., Montada, L., & Schmitt, M. (1987). The General Belief in a Just World. The English version of the
instrument was downloaded from http://www.erzwiss.uni-halle.de/gliederung/paed/ppsych/GWG_allg_eng.pdf
Belief in a Just World and blame attribution 9
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    • "Further, our data supported the relationship between experiencing objectification and endorsing rape myths, meaning that sexual objectification may have more insidious effects beyond merely accepting unwanted sexual attention. Our hypothesis about system-justifying beliefs being positively related to rape myth acceptance (Hypothesis 4) was also supported, lending further support to previous research framing rape myths as a method of system justification (Abrams et al. 2003; Correia et al. 2007; De Judicibus and McCabe 2001; Hayes et al. 2013; Sakallı-Uğurlu et al. 2007; Strömwall et al. 2013). Stereotypes play a large role in system justification, such that stereotypes are created and propagated to explain and support the current status quo (Jost and Banaji 1994). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is little recent research on women’s adoption of rape avoidance behaviors, and there has been no known investigation into how adoption of these behaviors relates to various system justification beliefs or experiences of sexual objectification. We surveyed 294 U.S. women aged 18 to 40 to assess experiences of objectification, belief in a just world, gender-specific system justification, benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and engagement in rape avoidance behaviors. Belief in a just world, gender-specific system justification, and benevolent sexism were conceptualized and analyzed as a “system justification” latent factor due to similarities between constructs regarding how they influence worldview, particularly regarding fairness and relations between dominant and subordinate groups. Our hypothesized model had good fit to the data and illustrated that experiencing objectification was related to increased rape myth acceptance and system justification, which, in turn, were related to implementation of rape avoidance behaviors. Further, system justification was significantly positively related to rape myth acceptance. Results show the continued importance of understanding the role of objectification in the endorsement of rape myths and assessments of societal fairness, as well as how women’s attitudes about society may ultimately affect their assessment of rape myths and their personal behavior. This research provides new information and groundwork for researchers developing rape education programming in addition to those interested in the complex relationship between women’s experiences and behavioral outcomes.
    Article · Aug 2016
    • "The role of gender, ambivalent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and rape empathy has received much academic attention and all these variables were shown to predict victim blaming. While considering gender differences , most studies showed that men are more likely to blame the victim (e.g., Anderson & Lyons, 2005; Black & Gold, 2008; Durán et al., 2010; Ferrão et al., in press; Gölge et al., 2003; Grubb & Harrower, 2009; Harrison et al., 2008; Schneider et al., 2009; Yamawaki & Tschanz, 2005), but others failed to replicate such findings (e.g., Cohn et al., 2009; Frese et al., 2004; Mandela, 2011; Newcombe et al., 2008; Rye et al., 2006; Strömwall et al., 2013). Regarding ambivalent sexism (Glick & Fiske, 1996), both ideologies were shown to increase victim blame, but benevolent sexism seems to be more insidious when the victim is a non-traditional female, given that benevolent sexists expect women to conform to traditional gender roles (Abrams et al., 2003; Glick et al., 2000; Viki & Abrams, 2002; Viki et al., 2004). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This article presents an overview of empirical research on the role of observer variables in rape victim blaming (female attacked by a male perpetrator). The focus is on literature from the last 15 years. The variables observer gender, ambivalent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and rape empathy are discussed in relation to victim blaming. Most research on rape is conducted using diverse methods and approaches that result in a great disparity regarding the role of these variables in predicting blame assignments. Despite the inconsistencies, most studies show that men hold the victim more responsible for her own victimization than women. Findings further indicate that higher scores on sexist ideologies and rape myth acceptance predict higher victim blame, and that higher rape empathy scores predict lower victim blame. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
    • "Previous researchers have pointed out that Swedish people hold more egalitarian sex-role beliefs in comparison to most countries (Sevilla-Sanz, 2010), which may question the generalizability of this study's results. However, the current study is part of a larger research program that has consistently shown that Swedish community members are, in general, more reluctant to blame the victim (Strömwall et al., 2013a, b). In their review, Grubb and Harrower (2008) called for more victim blame research from countries other than USA and the UK. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tanto los hechos de la vida real como la investigación muestran que a las víctimas de violación a veces se las acusa de victimización. Apenas se ha estudiado el efecto de las características del autor en la culpabili- zación de las víctimas. En un experimento con una muestra comunitaria (N = 161) utilizando una metodo- logía de viñetas investigamos el efecto de las condenas anteriores y de la edad del autor, así como el género y su creencia en un mundo justo, en la atribución de culpa. Se predijo que se atribuiría menos culpa a la víctima y más al autor cuando éste había sido condenado anteriormente. Los resultados indican que la creencia en un mundo justo se asociaba (positivamente) a la culpabilización de la víctima y (negativamen- te) a la del autor. Los hombres culpabilizaban más a la víctima y las mujeres la culpabilizaban menos cuan- do el autor había sido condenado anteriormente. En consecuencia, el género constituye un factor importan- te en la explicación de la variación en la atribución de culpa.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014
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