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