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A Religious Paradox: Can Priming Ideas of God Reduce Rape Victim Blame?

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Rape victim blame contributes to unreported incidents of sexual assault and failure to support victims (Ahrens in American Journal of Community Psychology, 38(3-4), 263-274, 2006). The present study investigated the relationship between religiosity, religious priming, and rape victim blame. Using an online Qualtrics panel, 247 U.S. participants were randomly assigned to either a neutral prime or a religious prime. They then read a short vignette of an acquaintance rape scenario and answered questions regarding perceptions of victim blame, victim credibility, benevolent and hostile sexism, religiosity, religious fundamentalism, and Rape Myth Acceptance (RMA). Results revealed that the religious prime reduced victim blame for highly religious participants but not among participants scoring lower in religiosity. The results confirmed that religiosity was positively correlated with both victim blame and RMA. The data also confirmed previous findings that men scored higher on blame than women and that higher religiosity correlated with higher victim blame. Additionally, RMA mediated the relationship between religiosity and rape victim blame. The results of this study could prove valuable in settings where sexual assault demands action from specifically religious individuals or institutions (e.g., jurors on a rape case in a highly-religious region or religious universities trying to confront the high prevalence of sexual assault on campus).

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The present research was supported by an Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunity (URCO) grant awarded to the first author by the Office of Research at Utah State University. We also wish to acknowledge Dr. Sarah Schwartz, director of the Statistical Consulting Studio at Utah State University, who provided important guidance and expertise on the mediation and moderation analyses and reporting that greatly improved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kathryn Sperry.

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The study was approved by Institutional Review Board and participants were given a Letter of Information prior to their participation and continued to the survey only if agreeing to be in the study. There are no potential conflicts of interest.

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Heath, E.G., Sperry, K. A Religious Paradox: Can Priming Ideas of God Reduce Rape Victim Blame?. Sex Roles 84, 196–207 (2021).

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