Accusers Lie and Other Myths: Rape Myth Acceptance Predicts Judgments Made About Accusers and Accused Perpetrators in a Rape Case
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Previous research results have yielded a consistent link between rape myth acceptance and sexual assault victim blaming: Individuals reporting higher levels of rape myth acceptance also report higher levels of victim blaming. In four studies we explored whether the presentation of rape-myth confirming information or rape-myth debunking information might moderate these tendencies. In these studies, U.S. undergraduates (97 in Study 1, 84 in Study 2, 98 in Study 3, and 116 in Study 4) read scenarios of a heterosexual sexual assault case and were randomly assigned to a control condition, a rape myth confirmation condition, or a rape myth debunking condition; they also reported the extent to which they endorsed or accepted rape myths. Rape myth acceptance robustly correlated with judgments made about accusers and accused rapists regardless whether the accuser/accused pairing was female/male (Studies 1 and 2) or male/female (Studies 3 and 4). For example, those who most strongly endorsed rape myths were also likely to disbelieve accusers. There were few instances indicating that the presentation of rape myth confirming information or rape myth debunking information moderated these effects. This lack of moderation occurred regardless of whether the information came from trial lawyers or from expert witnesses in the case. The relative impotence of the information presentations could be due to several factors (e.g., entrenched nature of rape myth acceptance, psychological reactance, timing and strength of manipulation), and we suggest ideas for how to overcome this relative impotence in future research.
KeywordsRape Rape myth acceptance Sexual violence Victim blaming
We would like to thank Kristen Myers for her conceptual input and support. Some of the findings reported here were presented at the January 2017 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Meeting.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest
The authors acknowledge that none has any conflict of interest regarding this manuscript.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All research studies were subject to approval and oversight by the Institutional Review Board at Northern Illinois University.
All participants were given and affirmed informed consent prior to participating in this research.
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