Title of Abstract

Consent Attitudes, Aggression, & Gender on Perceptions of Sexual Assault

Poster Number

01b

Faculty Mentor

One WU mentor: Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.; sleighm@winthrop.edu

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

Abstract

Perceptions of sexual assault are heavily dependent on commonly held, but often false, beliefs. For example, most adults believe incautious behavior makes a victim more responsible for assault. We hypothesized that gender, aggression levels, consent attitudes, and empathy levels would be significant predictors of how individuals perceive sexual assault scenarios. Participants were 82 adults with a mean age of 20.46 (SD = 2.66). The majority were women (72%) and Caucasian (54%). Participants were randomly assigned to read a scenario where a young adult was sexually assaulted by two offenders. The gender of the victim and the offenders were altered across the four versions to be male/males, male/females, female/males, and female/females. Participants provided their perceptions of the assault, their views of consent, empathy levels, and aggression levels. Results revealed that adults adhered to rape myth beliefs by evaluating accused men more harshly than accused women. Adults who felt negatively about sexual consent were more likely to blame the victim, and aggressive individuals experienced more of this negativity. Women were more sympathetic toward all victims than were men, and also felt more in control over sexual consent. Compared to Caucasians, African American adults appeared to be concerned about false blame and reported that it is too easy to unfairly accuse someone of sexual assault in our society. These perceptions may reflect African Americans’ personal feelings of societal vulnerability. Our findings suggest that perceptions of sexual assault may reflect the perceiver as much as the situation being perceived.

Additional Fields About Your Abstract

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Course Assignment

PSYC 302 - Sleigh

Other Presentations/Performances

Southeastern Psychological Association, Virtual, March 2021

Start Date

16-4-2021 11:30 AM

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Apr 16th, 11:30 AM

Consent Attitudes, Aggression, & Gender on Perceptions of Sexual Assault

Perceptions of sexual assault are heavily dependent on commonly held, but often false, beliefs. For example, most adults believe incautious behavior makes a victim more responsible for assault. We hypothesized that gender, aggression levels, consent attitudes, and empathy levels would be significant predictors of how individuals perceive sexual assault scenarios. Participants were 82 adults with a mean age of 20.46 (SD = 2.66). The majority were women (72%) and Caucasian (54%). Participants were randomly assigned to read a scenario where a young adult was sexually assaulted by two offenders. The gender of the victim and the offenders were altered across the four versions to be male/males, male/females, female/males, and female/females. Participants provided their perceptions of the assault, their views of consent, empathy levels, and aggression levels. Results revealed that adults adhered to rape myth beliefs by evaluating accused men more harshly than accused women. Adults who felt negatively about sexual consent were more likely to blame the victim, and aggressive individuals experienced more of this negativity. Women were more sympathetic toward all victims than were men, and also felt more in control over sexual consent. Compared to Caucasians, African American adults appeared to be concerned about false blame and reported that it is too easy to unfairly accuse someone of sexual assault in our society. These perceptions may reflect African Americans’ personal feelings of societal vulnerability. Our findings suggest that perceptions of sexual assault may reflect the perceiver as much as the situation being perceived.