Essay Example on Victims and perpetrators of sexual Violence

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Victims and perpetrators of sexual violence are often expected to have certain characteristics and behaviours These expectations form a stereotyped image that has negative consequences in particular for victims Victims of rape are often considered responsible and blameworthy of the traumatic events they experienced Grubb Turner 2012 Therefore it is important to understand how and why responsibility is allocated in the context of rape Heider 1958 examined the cognitive processes behind observers allocation of responsibility and proposed the Attribution Theory Cognitive and motivational biases have an impact on allocative processes Wegner Vallacher 1997 and result in interpretations that are not based on the facts of the events observed These events are analysed through the observers biases and develop one s causal explanations and judgements Fiske Taylor 1991 Heider differentiated between two forms of attributions internal attributions where the outcome someone s actions depend on the individual s personal and unique characteristics and external attributions where one s actions are dictated by situational factors outside of his her control Attribution theories explain victim blaming in rape and sexual assault cases in function of internal attribution processes victims are believed to have been targeted by perpetrators because of their unique characteristics personality behaviour appearances 



On the other hand observers using external attribution are more likely to hold victims as less responsible because they recognise the importance of the context in which the event happened rather than the individual s characteristics Rotter 1966 Attribution theories are the basis of many explanations of the phenomenon of victim blaming For example Defensive Attribution Hypothesis Shaver 1970 Walster 1966 proposes that blame allocation and the observers perceived similarity are negatively correlated to each other The more an observer perceives to be similar to the victim the less blame he she will allocate On the other hand the less similarity is perceived the more responsible the victim will be held Grubb and Turner 2012 argued that Defensive attribution is a mechanism employed to safeguard the future self from being held responsible in the event of something similar happening Burger 1981 conducted a meta analysis on defensive attribution research focusing on the impact of severity of incidents described on allocation of responsibility Findings suggested that overall severity had a weak but significant effect on the degree by which participant blamed someone for their misfortune Burger suggested that motivational factors mediated the effect of similarity and severity on attributions In terms of victim blaming observers may be less affected by the outcome of the events observed victim being raped but more by personal biases and motives that lead participant to view the victim as incompatible with themselves It is possible to draw a comparison between Defensive attribution hypothesis and Just World Theory Lerner 1980 Just World beliefs have been identified as a valid explanation of why and how rape victims are blamed for the events they experienced Negative perceptions of and attitudes towards victims are the result of overcompensation for a seemingly undeserved act Grubb Turner 2012 p 444 Victims behaviour and personal characteristics are seen as instrumental in explaining why they experienced abuse Strömwell Alfredsson Landström 2013 This beliefs underpin a need to view the world as a place where one s behaviour has consequences and those consequences are justly deserved In simpler terms good things happen to good people while bad things happen to bad people

This view of the world give observers a sense of control over their surrounding environment and their own life It would appear that Heider s internal attribution contributed in Lerner s Just World Theory as observers do not understand events based on their context but instead in the victims morality and behaviour Therefore rape does not exist out there independently from the victim it occurs because of the way the victim is or has behaved Similarly to Defensive Attribution Hypothesis belief in a Just World underpins the same self protective motive 2 2 Rape Myth Acceptance The concepts and ideas proposed by research on rape myth acceptance are instrumental to understand the phenomenon of victim blaming in modern society Introduced in the 70s by the feminist movement Brownmiller 1975 rape myths are prejudicial stereotyped or false beliefs about rape rape victims and rapists Burt 1980 p 217 Rape myths are false widely help and are believed to serving the function of denying and justifying male sexual aggression against women Lonsway Fitzgerald 1994 p 234 It has been argued that the endorsement of rape myths support male sexual violence against women and contribute to the perpetuation of the social milieu of victim blaming Grubb Turner 2012 p 445 They function as cognitive tools Burt 1980 p 282 used by men to turn off social prohibitions Rape myths are very problematic as they downplay the actual impact of male sexual aggression against women and can result in potential rapists underestimating the gravity of their actions Bohner Siebler Schmelcher 2006 Observers endorsing rape myths are more likely to blame victims not believe the claims of rape exonerate the perpetrator and infer that only certain women are sexually assaulted Gerger Kley Bohner Siebler 2007 Payne Lonsway Fitzgerald 1999 identified seven main types of rape myths she asked for it she liked it she wanted it he didn t mean to it wasn t really rape rape is a trivial event rape is a deviant event Researchers have devised scales and questionnaires to assess endorsement of rape myths including those identified by Paine Lonsway and Fitzgerald These scales are powerful tools to explore the way external observers perceive victims and perpetrators of sexual assault



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