Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Attribution of Responsibility in Acquaintance Rape Involving Ecstasy

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Attribution of Responsibility in Acquaintance Rape Involving Ecstasy

Article excerpt

This study examined the attributions of responsibility for the parties involved in a date rape using a 2 x 2 between-subjects design. Forty-nine undergraduate female psychology students read one of four hypothetical date rape scenarios depicting identical circumstances except for the level of intoxication by either or both of the parties. Responsibility level was ascertained by participant response to eight questions ranked on a 7-point Likert-type scale. It was expected that intoxication of the victim would enhance her perceived level of responsibility for the rape while intoxication of the perpetrator would diminish his perceived level of responsibility, that intoxication of the victim would encourage participants to believe that she led the perpetrator to believe that she desired to have sex with him while decreasing support for her to report the crime, and that intoxication of the perpetrator would reduce the amount of control attributed to the perpetrator and also minimize the recommended punishment for the crime. Results are discussed in terms of the "Just World hypothesis," including implications for emotional recovery of rape victims.

The crime of rape can have a devastating effect upon its victims, both physically and psychologically. Social judgments regarding the victims' level of responsibility for the event can further complicate their emotional recovery (Brems and Wagner, 1994). Societal stereotypes have created a double standard, where traditionally the victim has been blamed for the event (Brems and Wagner, 1994). This issue is particularly salient for college-aged men and women. Date rape occurs with startling frequency on college campuses, and seems to be perpetuated by rape-tolerant attitudes held by the college males (McDonald & Kline, 2004). At least 85% of the attempted and successful rapes of college women were committed by non-strangers with only a small minority of 5% of the victims reporting the crime to the police (Fogle, 2000). Victims' apparent unwillingness to report these crimes may be due in part to fear of judgment by others, embarrassment, or intoxication at the time of the assault (Fogle, 2000). Therefore, intoxication of one or more parties involved in a date rape could affect the inevitable judgment of accountability. This study will examine the attribution of responsibility for both the perpetrator and the victim utilizing different levels of intoxication via the drug Ecstasy in four acquaintance rape scenarios.

A similar study was conducted measuring the role of alcohol in the attribution of responsibility in acquaintance rape. When both the victim and the offender were equally intoxicated, the victim was rated as more responsible for the incident (Fogle, 2000). Fogle (2000) also suggests that an intoxicated victim is perceived as more careless and sexually promiscuous than a sober one and that intoxication may be viewed as an invitation for sex. This supports the conventional belief that women can avoid rape by avoiding behaviors that make them more susceptible to the crime. Regardless of inebriation, perpetrators were always seen as holding the greater responsibility for the event; intoxication simply amplified the victim's responsibility (Fogle, 2000).

Previous research on attribution of responsibility has examined variables other than intoxication. Workman and Freeburg (1999) discovered that victim dress and personal relevance mediated perceptions of accountability. Immodest dress was positively correlated with victim responsibility while modest dress created a perception of vulnerability: modest dress is possibly involved in the selection of the victim, and immodest dress is used to blame the victim (Workman & Freeburg, 1999). Workman and Freeburg (1999) discovered that when a perceiver estimates personal similarity to the victim, that perceiver would decrease attributions of responsibility as a defense mechanism. Mitchell, Hirschman, and Hall (1999) inspected the role of sexual orientation in date rape where it was found that a homosexual victim was attributed more blame for the event and was perceived as experiencing more pleasure from it than his heterosexual counterpart. …

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