Document Type



Joan Chrisler

Publication Date



Perceptions of rape are often influenced by rape myths. Many people incorrectly believe that most rapes are violent, perpetrated by strangers to the victim, and result in vaginal intercourse. In order to understand how people perceive rape situations that may not follow this normative script, this research focused on two specific aspects of rape – marital status and type of sexual act. In the present study, participants were presented with a vignette that described a rape situation in which the marital status of the couple and the sexual act involved were manipulated. Participants were asked to assess the incident in terms of many factors, including the incident’s severity, the incident’s level of violence, the degree of consent, and the victim’s responsibility. They were also asked how willing they were to label the incident sexual assault and/or rape. Results indicated that there was no difference in perceptions between vignettes in which the couple had been married for 2 years and vignettes in which the couple had been in a relationship for 2 years. Results did indicate that perceptions of rape scenarios differed by sexual act, such that rapes involving vaginal and anal intercourse were perceived to be more severe and more likely to be labeled as rape and sexual assault than rapes involving forced oral sex or penetration with fingers. There were also significant correlations between participants’ evaluation of vignettes and their rape myth acceptance, sexist attitudes, belief in a just world, social dominance orientation, gender ideology, and traditional attitudes toward women. Public policy and social implications of these results are discussed.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.