Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Victim Blaming and Exoneration of the Perpetrator in Domestic Violence: The Role of Beliefs in a Just World and Ambivalent Sexism

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Victim Blaming and Exoneration of the Perpetrator in Domestic Violence: The Role of Beliefs in a Just World and Ambivalent Sexism

Article excerpt

The existence of domestic violence is closely linked to several ideological factors that include sexism and other beliefs about society in general, namely the belief in a just world. In this study, which involved 485 people of both sexes aged between 18 and 70 years, we analyzed the influence of these ideological variables of the perceivers and characteristics of the situation on judgments of a gender aggression - blaming the victim and exonerating the perpetrator. Results showed differences in the reactions of observers depending on the cause that triggered the aggression. Participants blamed the victim and exonerated the aggressor more when no cause of the aggression was mentioned than when a cause was mentioned (the woman wanted to separate, to see an old male friend, or simply to take a trip with her female friends). We also found clear effects of hostile sexism and just world beliefs on the dependent variables. Results showed that the influence of just world beliefs depended on the fact of mention or not a cause for the aggression.

Keywords: domestic violence, ambivalent sexism, just world beliefs.

La existencia de violencia doméstica está estrechamente relacionada con una serie de factores ideológicos entre los que se encuentran el sexismo y otras creencias sobre la sociedad en general como son las creencias en el mundo justo. En este estudio, en el que participaron 485 personas de ambos sexos con edades comprendidas entre los 18 y 70 años, se analizó la influencia que en los juicios sobre una agresión de género (culpar a la víctima y minimizar la importancia de la agresión) tenían tanto algunas variables ideológicas de los perceptores como ciertas características de la situación. Los resultados mostraron diferencias en las reacciones de los observadores en función de la causa desencadenante de la agresión descrita. Los participantes culparon más a la víctima y exoneraban más al agresor cuando no se presentaba causa de la agresión que cuando la causa era mencionada (la mujer quería separarse, iba a ver a un viejo amigo o simplemente hacer un viaje con amigas). También se obtuvieron claros efectos del sexismo hostil y de las creencias en el mundo justo en las variables dependientes. Los resultados mostraron que la influencia de las creencias en el mundo justo dependía del hecho de mencionar o no la posible causa de la agresión.

Palabras clave: violencia doméstica, sexismo ambivalente, creencias en el mundo justo.

Every day, thousands of women and girls in the world are victims of some kind of violence mainly because they are women. According to international studies carried out by the World Health Organization in 35 countries, between 24 and 53 per cent of women have been physically abused in their lifetime; a great part of this violence is perpetrated by men who are or were their intimate partners (WHO, 2005).

This kind of violence has deep historic roots and is present in almost every society (Alberdi & Matas, 2002; Straus, 2006; Vieraitis, Brito, & Kovandzic, 2007; Yoshioka, Dinoia, & Ullah, 2001). The socio-cultural structure has an influence on violence against women, essentially by maintaining a set of widely shared beliefs, values and myths related not only to gender violence in particular but also to the social system in general and to relationships between men and women (Bhanot & Senn, 2007).

Attitudes towards domestic violence are important to understand how people react or behave towards victims and perpetrators of these aggresions (Gracia, García, & Lila, 2009). These attitudes are often characterized by blaming the victim, minimizing the importance of the aggresion and justifying or exonerating the perpetrator and may be shown by perpetrators as well as victims (Yamawaki, Darby, & Queiroz, 2007). Attitudes towards domestic violence are linked to other ideologies, as gender ideology. Thus, traditional gender beliefs are associated with increased sympathy for perpetrators of physical aggression (Pavlou & Knowles, 2001; Willis, Hallinan, & Melby, 1996), less blame for perpetrators (Hillier & Foddy, 1993; Kristiansen & Giulietti, 1990; Pavlou & Knowles, 2001), more victim blame (Valor-Segura, Expósito,& Moya, 2008) and lower perceptions that the behaviors are abusive (Willis et al. …

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