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Exploring Sexual Violence Victimization at Arizona State University

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For my honors thesis project in Barrett, the Honors College, I conducted an online college survey that measured student attitudes and perceptions with regard to gender, sexual assault, and domestic

For my honors thesis project in Barrett, the Honors College, I conducted an online college survey that measured student attitudes and perceptions with regard to gender, sexual assault, and domestic violence. In doing so, I also asked students situational questions about their experiences with sexual violence. The research question for the project centered around hidden victims who have been affected by gender-based violence but have yet to report the incident to law enforcement or university officials, despite a number of prominent educational and prevention campaigns on campus and in mainstream media. At the conclusion of the Spring 2016 semester, I received 683 responses from current students at Arizona State University. For the majority of situational questions, 20-30% of individuals answered "yes" to experiencing incidents of sexual violence, many of which focused on if someone had used alcohol/drugs, threats, or physical force to obtain sexual intercourse. For the survey, 11% of women said yes to the question, "have you ever been raped?" Additionally, a significant number of students hesitate to report incidents to law enforcement or university officials because: (1) they were ashamed or embarrassed, (2) wanted to forget it happened, and (3) believed it was a private matter that they wanted to deal with on their own. With this information, university administrators can develop a better understanding of the ASU campus culture as it relates to sexual violence. Additionally, organizational and institutional efforts can be organized and designed to meet the specific needs of our student body with the goal of ultimately reducing the number of sexual assaults that take place.

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  • 2016-12

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What About “He Said, He Said?" The Effect of Rape Myth Acceptance and Extra-Legal Factors on Blame Attributions

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Many authors have shown that "real victim," "real rape," and traditional gender role stereotypes affect how people attribute blame to victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, and that jury decisions

Many authors have shown that "real victim," "real rape," and traditional gender role stereotypes affect how people attribute blame to victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, and that jury decisions in rape cases are likewise influenced by extralegal factors, such as how much the victim resisted. Most studies only focus on the acceptance of rape myths and stereotypes about female victims, while myths and stereotypes about male victims are largely ignored. It is unknown how female rape myth acceptance (FRMA) and male rape myth acceptance (MRMA) may differently affect victim and perpetrator blame attributions. Whether the juror influences the effect of extra-legal factors on rape perceptions is also unknown. Using a randomized vignette design, the current study investigates 1) the effect of rape myth acceptance and gender attitudes on victim and perpetrator blame attributions, 2) how blame attributions differ by victim gender, level of resistance, and victim-perpetrator relationship, and 3) how the juror role influences the effects of rape myth acceptance and extra-legal factors on blame attributions. Results show that FRMA and MRMA are both positively associated with victim blame and negatively associated with perpetrator blame, that male victims are blamed more than female victims, and that jury membership does not influence the effect of extra-legal factors on blame attributions. Victim resistance and victim-perpetrator relationship also affected rape perceptions in unexpected ways. Implications for rape prevention programing, police and prosecutor decision-making, and jury selection are discussed.

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  • 2017

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Often I feel we victimize the victim more than the suspect does: examining officer attitudes toward sexual assault complainants

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The purpose of this project is to better understand police perceptions of sexual assault complainants by assessing their likelihood of questioning a complainant’s credibility and by examining police attitudes toward

The purpose of this project is to better understand police perceptions of sexual assault complainants by assessing their likelihood of questioning a complainant’s credibility and by examining police attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. To advance understanding of these issues, this dissertation (1) expands upon prior research by drawing on a sample of officers from one of the largest metropolitan police departments in the United States and, (2) through the use of framing theory, contributes to the literature by focusing on the attitudes of police toward sexual assault complainants and how these beliefs are shaped by day-to-day experiences.

This dissertation investigates two research questions using a mixed-methods approach. The data come from 400 sexual assault complaints that were reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and 52 LAPD detective interviews. I quantitatively examine the factors that influence officer perceptions of complainant credibility, focusing on indicators of “real rape,” “genuine” victims, “inappropriate” victim behavior, and “character flaws.” I contextualize this work by examining police attitudes toward sexual assault victims using qualitative data taken from interviews of sex crimes detectives. This research contributes to the broader case processing literature by focusing on victim credibility, a factor consistently found to influence case processing decisions. Moreover, this study contributes to research on the frames officers assign to women who report sexual assault.

Analyses from the quantitative portion of the study confirm that indicators of “real rape,” and complainant “character issues” were key explanatory factors influencing credibility assessments. Regarding qualitative results, three sexual assault victim frames were identified. These frames include depictions of victims as they relate to: (a) the suspect/victim relationship, (b) problematic victim behavior, and (c) age. These three frames indicate that certain types of victims are viewed as problematic.

This dissertation contributes to three broad bodies of literature: law enforcement decision making, law enforcement perceptions of sexual assault victims, and framing theory. This dissertation was able to tap into officer attitudes to shed light on the ways officers treat women who come forward to report sexual assault, providing valuable insight into officer attitudes, credibility assessments, and victim framing.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Examining race and sexual assault kit submission: a test of Black's Behavior of law theory

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Following a sexual assault, victims are advised to have a medical forensic exam and undergo a sexual assault kit (SAK) collection. The SAK is then held in police storage until

Following a sexual assault, victims are advised to have a medical forensic exam and undergo a sexual assault kit (SAK) collection. The SAK is then held in police storage until it undergoes testing at a crime lab. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of SAKs in the United States remain untested. This thesis examines SAK submission by organizational decision makers in sexual assault case processing. Guided by Black's theory of law, this paper seeks to examine if white and minority victims systematically experience differential access to justice in terms of getting their respective SAKs submitted. Using data from a 1982-2012 Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Study in Los Angeles, California, the current study explores the relationship between race and SAK submission, legal (eg., case specific) and extralegal (eg., victim characteristics) variables across 1,826 backlogged SAKs and 339 non-backlogged SAKs. Results from the logistic regression analysis indicate that victims of nonstranger sexual assault are more likely to experience backlog of their SAK while victim race does not appear to affect SAK submission. Implications for theory, research and criminal justice practice are discussed.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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It's a gut feeling: the craft of diagnosing victim credibility and case convictability

Description

The #MeToo Movement has sparked debate across the world as to how prevalent sexual assault is and what can be done to help survivors. Although sexual assaults are the least

The #MeToo Movement has sparked debate across the world as to how prevalent sexual assault is and what can be done to help survivors. Although sexual assaults are the least likely crime to be reported to police, it is important to examine the criminal justice system’s treatment of these cases. The focus of this thesis is on the prosecution of sexual assault cases. Specifically, the goal is to uncover the factors that impact prosecutorial decision-making in sexual assault cases across three different timepoints. This study examines qualitative interviews conducted in 2010 with 30 Deputy District Attorneys from Los Angeles, California. Results reveal that prosecutors’ largely rely on their “gut feelings” about whether a case will be successful based on a combination of factors, including: victim credibility, availability of evidence, and corroboration of the victim’s story, just to name a few. The study concludes with an examination of these results, a discussion on the limitations of the study and a guide for future research, and what policy changes can come from these findings.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2019