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Department of Psychological Sciences

Patricia Ann Tetreault, Ph.D.


Dr. Robert Lowman

Dissertation Title

Attributions of responsibility in reports of stranger rape

Dissertation Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to determine the influence of the sexual components of rape on attributions of responsibility. In the first experiment, female and male college students read a simulated newspaper report of a rape or an assault. The possible impact of the labels "victim" and "survivor" were also assessed. Subject gender significantly influenced perceptions of the preventability of these crimes, with female subjects perceiving the crimes as less preventable than did males. Type of crime significantly influenced perceptions of the seriousness and the traumatic impact upon the victim of these two crimes. No effect due to victim label was found. In the second experiment, female and male subjects read a simulated newspaper report of a rape that varied the descriptor of the rape victim along the previously scaled dimension of perceived likelihood to consent to casual heterosexual sex. Subject gender and victim descriptor significantly influenced attributions of responsibility for the rape, with the effect largely caused by subjects assigning greater responsibility to the victim described as being an exotic dancer.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1986