Study Into The Attribution Of Blame In Rape Criminology Essay

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A study was carried out by sixty participants to find out whether the attribution of blame is more towards the perpetrator or the victim of rape when the effects of gender and alcohol are considered. The participants were asked to take part in filling out one questionnaire, which was randomly chosen from four questionnaires that included a vignette of a rape case. The participants were not given a time limit and all of the results were collected and analysed. The results showed that the attribution of blame was more towards the drunken victim than the perpetrator and more blame was attributed towards the male victim than the female victim when the victim was raped.

The aim of the study was to examine the attribution of blame towards the perpetrator and victim of rape when the effects of gender and alcohol are considered. The term rape means that when the assault has taken place and no consent (person does not agree by choice to go along with the sex) was given by the victim to have sex, where the perpetrator could be known by the victim or a complete stranger. This can be an act of violence and a way of dominating an individual and the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 was set up to strengthen the law for these cases and to prevent them.

It was found that in most studies, people attribute more responsibility to the perpetrator instead of the victim, where the attributions are low. Studies were carried out to see whether in any circumstance the attribution of blame would be shifted from the perpetrator to the victim and some of these studies have been talked about below.

Amir, 1971; Shupe, 1954, cited in Richardson, 1982 found that alcohol consumption was an important factor when investigating rape cases but is hard to comprehend the influences of this factor, in terms of perception on the victim and perpetrator. Lerner (1970), cited in Richardson, 1982 established that when the victim was drunk, there would be more responsibility by the observer put onto the victim instead of the perpetrator. This is compared to when the offender is drunk, the responsibility is shifted to the victim as it is said that it is hard to distinguish between what is right from what is wrong when intoxicated (Amir, 1971). People may believe that an intoxicated perpetrator will have less responsibility than a sober perpetrator because the intoxication is an external factor for control rather than internal factors, such as hostile aggression.

Generally, Davies P, Pollard P and Archer J (2006) looked at female rape victims, not male rape victims, as most male rape victims do not report these assaults because they are in fear of receiving homophobic reactions (Mezey & King, 1989, cited in Davies, 2006). Hodge and Cantor (1989), cited in Davies 2006 found that the males who reported these sexual assaults said they were heterosexual even if they were not because they thought this would make the people believe they were innocent. This is because the male victims believed that if they said they were homosexual the perceiver would automatically think they enjoyed the experience. Another study by Davies et al. (2001), found that males react negatively towards gay male rape victims because it is perceived that gay male victims are seen to have enjoyed the rape compared to heterosexual male victims, so gay male rapes are seen as less serious. In another recent study (Burczyk & Standing, 1989 cited in Davies, 2006), it was generally considered that there was less sympathy for male rape victims than for female rape victims and the men were more likely to blame male victims than female victims.

A study was carried out by Struckman-Johnson (1988), cited in Davies 2006, to see the percentage of male and females who admitted they were sexually assaulted by another female, as it is hard to come to terms with a female forcing a male down to have sex with them, as they are not strong enough. It was concluded that 16% of men had experienced this and 22% of women had experienced this too. Another study (Smith, Pine, & Hawley, 1988, cited in Davies, 2006), showed that males said that male rape victims who were assaulted by a woman, would find the assault pleasurable (47%), compared with the female percentage of 9%. This is because men's views of female sexual assaults on males are positive as men should be ready to have sex at any time, when a woman is willing to.

It was found (L'Armand & Pepitone, 1982 cited in Pollard, 1992) that more attribution was directed at the victim more than the perpetrator when the sexual assault was a date-rape (the victim knew the perpetrator) than when the perpetrator was a stranger. This is because the experience would be less traumatic to the victim if it was a date-rape compared to a stranger rape.

Based on past research it was predicted that males who are victims of rape would have more blame attributed to them than female victims. The second hypothesis was that there would be more blame attributed to the drunken victim than the sober victim, when they were raped. The third hypothesis was that there would be no gender differences for the victim when attributing blame towards the perpetrator. The forth and final hypothesis was when the perpetrator is sober, there would be more blame attributed to them than when they are drunk.

Method

Design

The type of design method that took place within the experiment was one which involved four questionnaires that had four different vignettes (scenarios) (refer to appendix 2-5). These four questionnaires measured four different conditions, which consisted of two independent variables and two dependent variables. The first independent variable that was manipulated was gender (male or female) and the second was alcohol, which was manipulated at two levels; sober or drunk. The two dependent variables that were measured were victim blame and perpetrator blame.

Participants

Sixty participants took part in this study, who were Psychology Undergraduates from the University of Central Lancashire. The undergraduates were selected by using the opportunity sampling technique, meaning the participants who were taken were there and ready at the time of the study. There was note of the participant's gender and age split at the time of the study.

Materials

There were four questionnaires used within the study, which had four different vignettes (fictional scenarios). The first vignette consisted of a male victim being drunk and getting attacked and the second vignette was the opposite where the male victim was completely sober and got attacked. The third vignette was a female being drunk and getting attacked and the forth and final one was the female being sober and getting attacked. All four were to measure attributions of victim and perpetrator blame. The questions consisted of two victim questions and two perpetrator questions and was measured on a 7 point Likert scale, where by 1=not justified/no punishment and 7=justified/punishment. A reverse scoring system was used whereby the number 1 was reversed to be a 7, the number 2 was a 6, the number 3 was a 5 etc.

Procedure

All of the sixty Psychology Undergraduate students from the University of Central Lancashire were given a questionnaire, which was randomly chosen from four of the questionnaires. For all of the four questionnaires, there were fifteen of each, whereby fifteen participants filled in one questionnaire, another fifteen filled in another one and the other thirty participants filled in the other questionnaires, which were divided equally. The participants were not given a time limit on this and the results from each questionnaire were calculated and analysed.

Results

The raw data consists of the sixty participant's scores for the four questions (two victim and two perpetrator) within the questionnaires. The mean victim blame scores were calculated along with the mean perpetrator blame scores (refer to appendix 1). A between 2x2 factorial ANOVA was also run to see if there was any significant results between the perpetrators, victims, gender and alcohol (refer to appendix 6for full descriptive statistics). A table of results has been produced below to show the means and standard deviations for the attribution of blame towards the victim for both male and female, when sober and drunk:

Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations for the attribution of blame towards the victim for both male and female under each condition; sober and drunk

Gender

Sober

Drunk

Total

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Female

1.64

0.93

2.10

1.24

1.91

1.13

Male

1.53

0.78

2.33

1.92

1.81

1.31

Total Means/SD

1.58

0.84

2.17

1.45

1.87

1.20

The table shows that the means for the female victim when sober compared to the male victim when sober was slightly higher, meaning that more blame was attributed to females than males. This was compared to when the victims were drunk; the male victim had a higher mean score than the female victim, showing that male victims received more blame than female victims when drunk. The totals mean for females were also higher compared to the male victims, therefore the female victims got more blame overall. The ANOVA for gender was not significant (F(1, 56)= 0.04, p=0.43), this shows there was no relationship between females and males. The totals mean when the victims were sober was lower than when the victim was drunk, meaning more blame was attributed when a person was drunk compared with when the individuals were sober. The ANOVA for alcohol was significant (F(1, 56)=3.83, p=.03), which indicates there was a relationship between the individual being sober or drunk. The interaction between both of them though was not significant (F(1,56)=0.29, p=0.59), therefore there was no relationship between gender and alcohol.

A table of results has been produced to show the means and standard deviations for the attribution of blame towards the perpetrator for both male and female, when sober and drunk:

Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations for the attribution of blame towards the perpetrator for both male and female under each condition; sober and drunk

Gender

Sober

Drunk

Total

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Female

6.68

0.72

6.60

0.93

6.63

0.84

Male

6.91

0.20

6.94

0.17

6.92

0.18

Total Means/SD

6.81

0.51

6.71

0.79

6.76

0.65

The table above shows that when the perpetrator was a male, the mean score was higher when sober than that of a female perpetrator when sober, which means the male received more blame for the rape. The mean for the female perpetrator when drunk was lower than the male perpetrator when drunk, suggesting there was more blame attributed towards the male than the female. The total means shows that more blame was attributed towards the sober perpetrator than when the perpetrator was drunk and more blame was attributed to the male perpetrators overall compared to the female perpetrators. The ANOVA for gender was significant (F(1,56)=2.68, p=0.05), which shows there was a relationship between the male and female victim when getting raped by the perpetrator. The ANOVA for alcohol was not significant (F(1, 56)=0.02, p=0.45), which means whether the perpetrator was sober or drunk there was no relationship between these two. The interaction between gender and alcohol is not significant (F(1,56)=0.10, p=0.75), meaning overall there was no relationship between gender and alcohol.

Discussion

The present study has revealed that there were two significant results and one of these was when the victim was sober or drunk when receiving blame for the rape. This indicates that there was a relationship between when the victim was sober or drunk and getting raped. The relationship was, when looking at the results it showed that more blame was attributed to the victim when the individual was drunk than when the individual was sober. This is because the individual would put themselves at more risk when drunk as they would not know exactly what they were doing meaning the individual would be more vulnerable to the perpetrator. This supports the hypothesis also as stated in the introduction where by more blame would be attributed towards the victim when drunk compared to being sober. The second significant result was when the victim was either male or female and got attacked by the perpetrator, whereby the results show that when the victim was a male, more blame was attributed to that individual than when the individual was a female. This may be because males are able to defend themselves more than females. This result is not supported by the hypothesis because it was predicted that there would be no difference in gender of the victim for getting the blame but there was; the male victim got more of the blame. When referring to table one for victim blame, the overall gender result showed that the female victims received more blame compared to their male victim counterparts but this result was non significant. This supports the hypothesis that more blame was attributed to female victims than male victims. This was the same when referring to table two for perpetrator blame, the overall alcohol results showed that sober perpetrators received more blame but it was also non significant. This also supported the hypothesis that more blame would be attributed to the sober perpetrator than when the perpetrator is drunk.

The first significant result where the victim would get more blame for the rape when the victim was drunk compared to when they were sober is supported by the studies stated in the introduction. The study which supports this result is Lerner (1970), cited in Richardson, 1982 whereby the researcher found that the observer would put more responsibility onto the victim when drunk instead of sober. This is because the victim is more risk worthy, as the victim is more vulnerable to rapists. This is the victims own fault, as they have got drunk themselves, so the observer's blame is shifted from the perpetrator to the victim. The second significant result was the gender of the victim when the perpetrator is raping them, which was not supported by the hypothesis but in one recent study (Burczyk & Standing, 1989 cited in Davies, 2006) it was. In this study they found that male rape victims received less sympathy than female rape victims, therefore more blame was attributed to them. This may be because males are capable of defending themselves and strong enough to push the perpetrator off them. As stated in the introduction (Mezey & King, 1989, cited in Davies, 2006), if the male reported this assault then the male would be seen to be homophobic and more blame would be attributed towards them because it was seen that the male would enjoy it if they were homophobic.

There were many limitations for this study, one being that the study was questionnaire based and a questionnaire is not a good method to use. This is because the individuals who fill them, out may not understand the question and choose any of the answers, this may be why some of the results did not turn out to be significant. Another reason is that the scenario's that were written were too complicated for the reader to understand, so the reader once again chose any answer, making the results bad. Another limitation could be that all of the participants within the study were students; therefore no student would want to get blamed for the rape so would always put no responsibility towards the victim. One more limitation was the fact that no gender for the perpetrator was analysed to see whether this would effect the results or not because if the perpetrator was a female instead of a male, would the observer still put more blame onto the male perpetrator or not. This may be because it would be hard for the female perpetrator to push the male down as Smith, Pine, & Hawley, 1988, cited in Davies, 2006 said that males are stereotypically seen as willing to have sex with a female when the female wants it at any point.

Future research could be carried out to improve on this study; one that looks into the attractiveness of the victim, as the perpetrators perception of the victim could increase when the perpetrator is drunk, but also when sober, which could improve the results dramatically. One study (Landy & Aronson, 1969; Sigall & Ostrove, 1975, cited in Richardson, 1982) showed that individuals with negative characteristics, such as poor attractiveness are treated more harshly by the observer than if the individual had positive characteristics. Some researchers (Seligman, Brickman & Koulack, 1977 and Tieger, 1981, cited in Pollard, 1992) have also revealed that perpetrators are more willing to attack attractive females and unattractive females are seen as unlikely targets. This implies that the attacker would receive less punishment for this assault as the unattractive victim is more likely to have provoked the assault. Another type of research that could be looked into is what the victim was wearing because if the female victim was covered up and not showing any flesh, it is unlikely that the male will attack them more than if the female victim was wearing shorts and a low cut top, which shows more flesh. The final type of research that could be looked into to improve the results is whether the victim resisted or not when the perpetrator raped the victim. A recent study (Wyer, Bodenhausen & Gorman, 1985, cited in Pollard, 1992) has suggested that victims who did not resist received more blame for this than if they did not resist. Another study (Krulewitz & Nash, 1979, cited in Pollard, 1992) revealed that females attributed more fault to the victim who had resisted, whereas males attributed less fault.

In conclusion, the results have shown that it was significant between whether the victim was drunk or sober and showed that the drunken victim received more blame for the rape than the sober victim. This is because the drunken victim is more vulnerable to the perpetrator and is at more risk of getting attacked, as when the victim is intoxicated it is more likely that they do not know what they are doing. The other result showed that there was a significance between the male and female victim when the perpetrator attacked the victim. This meant that more blame was attributed towards the male victim than the female victim when the perpetrator attacked them.

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