Biases in Blaming Victims of Rape and Other Crime

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Objective: This study examines general biases and gender biases in blaming victims of rape and other crimes. General biases operate for any type of victimization and can bias attributions of blame downward (sympathy for victims and anger toward offenders) or upward (hindsight). Gender biases can lead to greater victim blaming for rape and female victims. Method: College students were presented with vignettes involving different outcomes and asked whether they blamed the victim (direct blame) and whether they thought the victim was irresponsible or should not have gotten herself in that situation (indirect blame). In Study 1 (N = 348), we manipulated whether the vignette ended with a rape or robbery and included two scenarios in which no negative consequence was mentioned. In Study 2 (N = 239), we manipulated the relationship of the offender and victim, the gender of the victim, and whether the vignette ended in a rape, homicide, assault, or accident. Results: Rape victims were not assigned more blame than other victims. In fact, participants were less likely to assign direct blame to rape victims than robbery victims. They tended to prefer indirect blame over direct blame, particularly in the case of rape and homicide. Conclusions: General biases better explained our results than gender biases. Sympathy for victims and anger toward offenders inhibit victim blaming, whereas hindsight encourages it.

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