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Clin Psychol Rev. 1999 Jan;19(1):57-77.

A review of cognitive factors in the etiology of rape: theories, empirical studies, and implications.

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  • 1General Psychiatric Hospital Drenthe, The Netherlands.


In the past decade, research into the etiology of rape has increasingly focused on cognitive variables. The studies reviewed in the present article provide evidence that men with a high proclivity to rape have more rape supportive attitudes, are more likely to consider victims to be responsible for rape, and are less knowledgeable about the negative impact of rape on the victims. These men tend to misperceive cues emitted by women in heterosocial interactions; fail to generate inhibitory self-verbalizations to suppress association of sex and aggression; and have more coercive, sexual fantasies. Furthermore, a high proclivity to rape is associated with a semantic network in which concepts of sex and power are closely linked in such a way that power cues are necessary precursors of sexual feelings. Multivariate studies suggest that rape-supportive attitudes interact with noncognitive factors in the etiology of rape. Implications for rape prevention and treatment of rapists are considered. Finally, methodological issues are discussed, and recommendations for future research are given.

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