Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Carrie Smith

Second Advisor

Joseph Wellman

Third Advisor

Laura Johnson

Relational Format



The present study investigated the effect of various factors on blame distribution in sexual violence cases. Participants (N = 378) were randomly assigned to either a rape (N = 187) or sexual assault (N = 190) condition and directed to read a scenario that varied only by the terminology indicated by the condition. Participants were provided two pre-filled slots labeled as the perpetrator and victim. Additionally, they were given two blank “free-response” options in which participants could assign blame and indicate a responsible party if they found it necessary. Data was gathered from the male (N = 163) and female (N = 200) respondents and analyzed as discrete samples to continue exploring if the pervasiveness of victim-blaming varies across genders. The questionnaire never explicitly mentioned a bystander, enabling us to explore the prevalence of non-prompted bystander blame in sexual violence scenarios. Blame attribution assigned by those who placed blame on a bystander was compared to those who did not. Results indicated that the distribution of victim blame did not vary across the rape and sexual assault conditions. Furthermore, the amount of assigned victim blame was consistent for both men and women. Very few participants indicated a bystander was to blame for the scenario (N = 30). Moreover, these participants assigned less blame to the perpetrator of the crime. Given their relevance in sexual violence prevention programs, the responsibility bystanders hold for sexual violence should be further investigated.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Psychology Commons



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