Murray State Theses and Dissertations


Many agree that sexual violence is a pervasive problem, but there is less disagreement regarding how to define or label it. Recent research has determined that rape-related beliefs are the strongest predictors for how both victims and non-victims conceptualize and label unwanted sexual experiences. What is less understood is the way that this conceptualization influences how non-victims respond to a disclosure. The current study sought to fill this gap by examining how rape-related beliefs affect the definitional and labeling process and how this process affects responses to a disclosure of sexual violence in a sample of non-victims. Participants included 119 female college students (Mage = 19.23, SD = 1.98; 81% White). Results revealed that endorsing distorted rape-related attitudes was a significant predictor for how one labeled one of the vignettes (i.e. “seduction rape” vignette), such that having more distorted rape-related attitudes led to labeling the experience as something other than rape (i.e. a miscommunication or a mistake). Results also revealed that this conceptualization subsequently affected responses for one of the vignettes (i.e. “seduction rape” vignette), such that those who labeled it as something other than rape were more likely to respond more negatively and less positively to the victim. These results suggest that endorsing rape-related beliefs can affect the conceptualization of an experience and that this conceptualization can affect responses to a disclosure. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Thesis Advisor

Marie E. Karlsson

Committee Member

Sean C. Rife

Committee Member

Michael Bordieri

Committee Member

Daniel P. Hepworth

Document Type