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J Interpers Violence. 2011 Jun;26(9):1785-97. doi: 10.1177/0886260510372945. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Blaming the victim and exonerating the perpetrator in cases of rape and robbery: is there a double standard?

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Department Psychology, University of Potsdam, Germany.


Research in legal decision making has demonstrated the tendency to blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator of sexual assault. This study examined the hypothesis of a special leniency bias in rape cases by comparing them to cases of robbery. N = 288 participants received descriptions of rape and robbery of a female victim by a male perpetrator and made ratings of victim and perpetrator blame. Case scenarios varied with respect to the prior relationship (strangers, acquaintances, ex-partners) and coercive strategy (force vs. exploiting victim intoxication). More blame was attributed to the victim and less blame was attributed to the perpetrator for rape than for robbery. Information about a prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increased ratings of victim blame and decreased perceptions of perpetrator blame in the rape cases, but not in the robbery cases. The findings support the notion of a special leniency bias in sexual assault cases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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