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Blame attributions in sexual crimes: Effects of belief in a just world and participant gender

Conference contribution
Authors Leif Strömwall
Sara Landström
Helen Alfredsson
Published in 22th Conference of the European Association of Psychology and Law, Nicosia, Cypern, March 2012
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords victim blame, sexual crimes, victim behavior, belief in a just world, secondary victimization
Subject categories Psychology, Applied Psychology

Abstract

Victims of rape are sometimes blamed for the assault but little is known about victims of other sexual crimes. In the present study we compared blame attributions for sexual assault and sexual harassment. The study also investigated the effects of belief in a just world (BJW), gender of participant and victim behavior on attributions of victim and perpetrator blame. A 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 between-subjects experimental methodology was employed. A community sample (N = 200) attributed levels of victim and perpetrator blame after reading one of four different scenarios that manipulated crime type (sexual harassment or sexual assault) and victim behavior (acting inviting to the perpetrator or not). Overall, the results showed that the level of victim blame was low and level of perpetrator blame was high. As predicted, participants high on BJW attributed more blame towards the victim than did those low on BJW. The participants attributed more blame to a victim of sexual harassment than to a victim of sexual assault. A significant four-way interaction showed highest victim blame levels for (a) female participants high on BJW when the victim of a sexual assault had acted inviting, and (b) females high on BJW when the victim of sexual harassment had not acted inviting. For perpetrator blame, only the main effect of crime type was significant: more blame attributed to the perpetrator of a sexual assault than sexual harassment. In line with previous research, BJW proved to be a powerful predictor of blame attributions. Furthermore, results indicated that victim blame levels were affected by victim behaviour, crime type and gender of participant in interaction. In conclusion, blame attributions are determined by multiple factors.

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