Attitudes toward Rape among Nigerian Young Adults: The Role of Gender, Parental Family Structure and Religiosity

Article excerpt

Abstract

Previous studies that examined the influence of demographic factors on attitudes towards rape yielded mixed results in various settings. This study built on these studies by investigating the influence of gender, parental family structure and religiosity on attitudes toward rape among young adults in Nigeria. The Attitudes Toward Rape and the Behavioural Religiosity scales were responded to by 320 young adults (128 males, 192 females) in Ibadan. Three hypotheses were tested with the independent group t-test. Attitudes of young adults toward rape was found to be different based on gender and parental family structure; male young adults had more positive attitudes toward rape than their female counterparts (t = 2.02, df = 318, p < .05); youth from polygamous family reported positive attitudes toward rape than those from monogamous family (t = -2.44, df = 310, p < .05). This study suggests that gender-based sexuality education can play an important role in providing information and prevention regarding rape; and that young adults from polygamous family should be the target populations for such programmes in Nigeria.

Key words: Attitudes towards rape, gender, parental family structure, religiosity

Introduction

Sexual intercourse with a woman by a man without her consent and chiefly by force or deception is a sexual crime. Among sexual crimes, rape has received more attention by researchers. For example, in America, the Sexual Offences Act (2003) came into force on the 1 May, 2004. The purpose of the Act is to strengthen and modernize the law on sexual crimes in which rape is predominant; whilst improving preventive measures and the protection of individuals from sexual offenders. In the past two decades, a great deal of research has focused on rape perception, with many studies attempting to delineate the conditions under which participants blame the victim and the perpetrator (Ward, 1995). Other studies examined attitudes toward rape in relation to some demographic and individual characteristics (e.g., Mori, Bernât, Glann, Selle 8c Zarate, 2005). However, how these demographic factors can increase our knowledge about attitudes towards rape has not received much attention from researchers. The present study examined how some demographic characteristics of Nigerian youths and their level of religiosity influence attitudes toward rape. By examining the association of factors such as gender, parental family structure and religiosity with attitudes toward rape our understanding of the issue will be broadened.

Rape is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse that is sometimes referred to as sexual assault. Rape is about power, not sex. A rapist uses force or violence - or the threat of it - to take control over another person. Some rapists use drugs or alcohol to take away a person's ability to fight back or think clearly before taking advantage of the victim. Rape can take many forms; it can be forced intercourse through the vagina, anus or mouth. Barnett and Field (1977) reported that 88% of the university students surveyed agreed with the statement that rape is a sex crime. It is a crime, whether the person committing it is a stranger, a date, an acquaintance, or a family member. No matter how it happened, rape is frightening and traumatizing. It causes both physical and emotional harm. People who have been raped therefore need care, comfort, and a way to heal.

Attitudes concerning the motivation for rape have been extensively investigated; however, little information exists about antecedents of young adults' attitudes toward rape as a sexual crime in Nigeria. The belief systems of lay persons and professionals who interact with rape victims and rapists influence rape myths. These myths can be used to explain the victimization of women. For example, rape myths such as "she wanted it," "females enjoy rape," and "she asked for it" contribute to violence toward women (Bostwick 8c Delucia, 1992). …