Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Construct Validity of Two Heterosocial Perception Skill Measures for Assessing Rape Proclivity

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Construct Validity of Two Heterosocial Perception Skill Measures for Assessing Rape Proclivity

Article excerpt

Rape-supportive attitudes and self-reported rape proclivity (using a measure by Malamuth, Haber, & Feshbach, 1980) were negatively correlated with decoding accuracy of women's negative cues (measured by the TRAC-D; McDonel, McFall, Schlundt, & Levenson, 1985) in an unselected sample of male college students. Better decoders of negative female cues on the TRAC-D, as well as subjects expressing fewer rape-supportive beliefs and less rape proclivity, were more conservative in their estimates of a man's justification in continuing to make sexual advances in the face of a woman's negative cues on the Heterosocial Perception Survey (HPS; McDonel, 1986). Ability to decode men's interpersonal cues was not correlated with responses on the HPS or rape attitude and proclivity measures, suggesting that specific rather than global decoding deficits were useful predictors of rape correlates. These results support the construct validity of the two social perception measures, the TRAC-D, and the HPS, as measures of rape proclivity.

The Likelihood to Rape index (LR) and related rape attitude measures developed by Malamuth, Haber, and Feshbach (1980) have received considerable empirical support as a measure of rape proclivity (e.g., Malamuth 1981a, 1984, 1989; Murphy, Coleman, & Haynes; 1986). Less attention has been given to the role of heterosocial skill as an element of rape proclivity, although a few studies have shown that this approach may have some value (Abbey, 1982; Becker, Abel, Blanchard, Murphy, & Coleman, 1978; Lipton, McDonel, & McFall, 1987; Murphy et al., 1986). The present research further explores the hypothesis that heterosocial skill deficits are associated with rape proclivity; specifically, the LR and rape attitude measures of Malamuth et al. (1980) should be correlated with measures of heterosocial skills.

Validity of Rape Proclivity and Rape Attitude Measures

Rapists often believe that women enjoy sexual assault, that the victim provoked the attack in some way, that rape victims do not suffer, and that women not wanting it can avoid rape. Such rape-supportive attitudes, also called "rape myths" by Burt (1980), are thought to play a disinhibitory role in all levels of aggression toward women (Biut, 1980; Malamuth, 198 la; Malamuth et al., 1980; Tieger, 1981). Rape myth acceptance has been shown to occur in the general population, but to a lesser degree than among rapists. In males not convicted of rape the same attitudes may indicate an elevated probability of sexual aggression.

Studying 53 college males, Malamuth et al. (1980) examined relationships among several classes of rape correlates: attitudes about rape, self-report of likelihood to rape (LR), and patterns of sexual arousal. To obtain a self-report of rape proclivity, subjects were asked to read a rape story and to answer questions about their perceptions of the rape, the perpetrator, and the victim. One item asks: "How likely are you, if at all, to behave as this man did if you were assured that you could not be caught and punished?" Likelihood was rated on a five-point scale, ranging from Not at all (1), to Somewhat (3), to Very Much (5). Using this Likelihood to Rape item (LR), it was found that 51% of his sample indicated a 2 or greater, and 21% answered 3 or higher. Across several replications of this type of study, 35% of males report at least a 2 or greater on this LR item (Malamuth, 1984).

The LR item correlated with other questions about rape attitudes (Malamuth et al., 1980). Subjects endorsing higher values for the LR item were more likely to say they (1) identified with the rapist, (2) felt the rapist was justified, (3) thought other men would rape if not punished, (4) thought the victim enjoyed the rape, and (5) thought women, in general, would derive pleasure from a similar experience. Tieger (1981) replicated these findings. The LR item correlated with sexual arousal to portrayals of rape but not to mutually consenting sex (Malamuth, Heim, & Feshbach, 1980), consistent with the patterns of arousal exhibited by rapists (Abel, Barlow, Blanchard, & Guild, 1977; Abel, Becker, Blanchard, & Djenderedjian, 1978; Barbaree, Marshall, & Lanthier, 1979; Quinsey, Chaplin, & Upfold, 1984; Quinsey, Chaplin, & Varney, 1981). …

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