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How Female Disclosure Recipients React to Women Survivors: The Impact of Rape Acknowledgment and Rejection of Rape Myths

Abstract

Because female rape survivors who are listened to and believed have been found to have fewer difficulties, it is essential that researchers examine factors that influence the social reactions survivors receive. The present experiment included 397 female U.S. college-students who were randomly assigned to read a vignette that either reflected an acknowledged rape survivor (i.e., used the word “rape” to describe the incident) or described an unacknowledged rape survivor (e.g., used the word “miscommunication” to describe the incident). The college women then answered questions about their own levels of rape myth rejection and indicated on measures of positive social reactions, negative social reactions, and victim blame how they would respond to the hypothetical rape survivor. The results demonstrated that the female participants’ answers on positive social reactions and victim blame were a function of both the survivors’ acknowledgment status and the participants’ rape myth rejection. The interaction was not supported for negative social reactions, but this non-finding may have stemmed from a restricted range of variance and overall low scores on that variable. The results are discussed in the context of both individual and systemic interventions that may lead to more positive, helpful, and affirming responses to survivors via the reduction of rape myths.

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Acknowledgements

Laura C. Wilson, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington; Hannah R. Truex, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington; Madeleine C. Murphy-Neilson, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington; Kristen P. Kunaniec, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington; Jordan T. Pamlanye, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington; Rebecca A. Reed, Department of Psychological Science, University of Mary Washington.

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Correspondence to Laura C. Wilson.

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Wilson, L.C., Truex, H.R., Murphy-Neilson, M.C. et al. How Female Disclosure Recipients React to Women Survivors: The Impact of Rape Acknowledgment and Rejection of Rape Myths. Sex Roles 84, 337–346 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-020-01169-3

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Keywords

  • Sexual assault
  • Victimization
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Self-disclosure
  • Social reactions
  • Social support