College Student's Attitudes toward Rape Victims

By Patitu, Carol Logan | College Student Affairs Journal, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

College Student's Attitudes toward Rape Victims

Patitu, Carol Logan, College Student Affairs Journal

Incidents of date rape are increasing, especially on college campuses. As with any issue of this magnitude, there are bound to be differing attitudes toward the rape victims. The study was conducted to assess the attitudes of college students toward rape victims using Ward's (1988) Attitudes Toward Rape Victims Scale (ARVS). Subjects for the study consisted of a stratified random sample of 400 undergraduate students attending a large research institution in the south. Gender, class, and ethnicity differences were studied. While no significant differences were found by class and ethnicity, a significant difference was found by gender. Men reported a higher score than women, denoting more unfavorable attitudes toward rape victims.

Studies on rape have indicated that at least one-sixth, perhaps as many as one-half of college undergraduates have faced a dating partner's physical aggression (Thompson, 1991). Due to the increase in incidents of date rape, awareness programming for date rape also has increased.

Rape, the crime of forced,nonconcentual sexual intercourse with a person, occurs every five minutes (Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States, 1991). In terms of numbers, one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. In one study, one in four college women had experienced rape or attempted rape, and 84 percent knew their attacker (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). In a study by Baier, Rosenzweig, and Whipple (1991), "nearly one in five female students had been a victim of rape or an attempted rape" (p. 317) at the time of their study. They sampled 1,650 students out of a total of 16,500 at a large, public residential university. In cases in which the victim knows her attacker, this crime is referred to as acquaintance or date rape. As stated by Adams and Abarbanel (1988)," The most prevalent form of rape on college campuses is acquaintance rape. The acquaintance may be a date or boyfriend of the victim, or someone the victim knows only casually, from her dorm, a class, or through mutual friends". (p. 7)

People sometimes envision rape as a situation where a deranged male leaps from a dark corner or from behind a bush to force sex upon an unsuspecting woman. While stranger rape of this type does occur, the recent literature documents the more alarming incidence rate of rape that involves acquainted individuals. (Snell & Godwin, 1993, pp. 599 - 600)

"A growing body of research on violence in intimate relationships reveals that physical aggression in dating relationships is as extensive a social problem as marital violence" (Thompson, 1991, p. 261).

In addition to rape and acquaintance rape, use of rohypnol, a sedative prescribed as sleeping pills in about 80 countries, but not the United States (Pascua, 1996), has now become a serious problem. Rohypnol, also known as "roofie," "is colorless, odorless, and quickly dissolves in a can of Diet Coke" (Rapists, February 16, 1996). Within 10 minutes, a drunk-like effect is created that lasts eight hours. The effects of alcohol are enhanced, causing loss of inhibition, extreme sleepiness, relaxation, and amnesia (Rapists, 1996). The victims do not recall anything about the incident the next day. "In Broward County, Florida, 10 men have been arrested on roofie-rape charges in the past year" (Rapists, 1996), and other incidents have been cited across the country.

Regardless of how rape occurs, women are being victimized -- taken advantage of against their will. Unfortunately, rape victims are often perceived negatively by members of society. Because of this, most women do not report the rape incident. As stated by Burling (1993), "sexual assault, including acquaintance rape, is a serious but often unreported crime on college campuses." (p. 1) In one study, only 1 in 20 notified the police (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987), and more than half of rape victims tell no one of their victimization. According to Korn (1993):

Victims/survivors of sexual aggression are often silent about their attack for several reasons: accepting responsibility and blame for the incident; not understanding a rape occurred, and instead framing it as rougher-than-normal sex; and shame. …

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