Women's Judgments of a Sexual Assault Scenario: The Role of Prejudicial Attitudes and Victim Weight


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Abstract

One potential barrier facing sexual assault survivors is that prejudicial attitudes and perceptions of victim appearance can influence the amount of blame, sympathy, and help that they receive from others. Using Weiner's (1980) attribution-affect-action theory as a guide, the present study investigated the relation between observer attitudinal characteristics (rape myth acceptance [RMA] and antifat attitudes [AFA]), victim weight, and specific judgments regarding a hypothetical sexual assault case. Female undergraduate participants (N = 173) were presented with a sexual assault scenario and asked to complete a series of self-report questionnaires. Consistent with past research, attributions of victim fault were positively associated with adherence to rape myths and were higher toward thin victims than overweight victims. Further, the relation between the rater attitudinal variables and sentencing recommendations was found to be dependent on victim weight. When the victim was presented as thin, neither RMA nor AFA emerged as a predictor of sentencing recommendations. In contrast, both RMA and AFA were positively related to sentencing recommendations when the victim was presented as overweight. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

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