Editor's Notes

Tara Pursley conducted the research included within "Rape-Beliefs and Social Reactions" for partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master Science in Clinical Psychology.

Under the direction of Dr. Marie Karlsson, Tara Pursley conducted a study similar to past ones that have looked into the "Rape Vignettes" and how people respond based on their own perception of what constitutes as sexual assault. This study aimed to discover how the various definitions of rape have affected how a person, whether a victim or not, perceives an experience or disclosure of rape.


Many agree that sexual violence is a pervasive problem, but there is less agreement regarding how to classify and define various experiences of rape. Research has demonstrated that the beliefs one holds about rape are the strongest indicator for how both victims and non-victims of sexual assault perceive and classify unwanted sexual experiences. What is less understood is the way that this perception influences how non-victims respond to a victim’s disclosure of sexual assault. The current study sought to fill this gap. Participants included 119 female college students (Mage = 19.23, SD = 1.98; 81% White). Results revealed that endorsing distorted beliefs about rape was a significant predictor for how one labeled one of the vignettes (i.e. “seduction rape” vignette), such that having more distorted beliefs about rape led to labeling the experience as something other than rape (i.e. a miscommunication or a mistake). Results also revealed that this perception 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 distorted beliefs about rape can affect the perception of experience and that this perception can affect responses to a disclosure. Implications and future directions are discussed.


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