Attribution of blame to rape victims among therapists and non-therapists


  • Yael Idisis Ph.D.,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Criminology, Bar-Ilan University, and Division of Forensic Psychiatry, Be'er Ya'akov Centre for Mental Health, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.
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  • Sarah Ben-David Ph.D.,

  • Efrat Ben-Nachum M.A.


This paper examines the hypothesis of modular judgment in the context of attribution of blame to rape victims. Modular judgment was operationalized using blame schemata suited to judgment of everyday aggression. Subjects were 72 individuals, 36 therapists and 36 non-therapists; half were men and half women. Each subject was presented with written descriptions of four rapes, which included information regarding victim's gender (male versus female) and victim's prior acquaintance with the rapist (stranger or known). Dependent variables were attribution of blame and judgments regarding severity of the rape and of the punishment deserved by the rapist. Among both therapists and non-therapists there was a slight general tendency to blame the victim. As expected, women were blamed more than men. Also, men attributed less blame to male victims then did women, whereas women attributed less blame to female victims then did men. These results support the theories of modular judgment and of defensive attribution. As for judgment of severity of the rape, therapists judged the rapes as slightly more severe. Similar results were found regarding judgment of deserved punishment. We suggest further investigation of the connection between blame attribution and rape myths, which may facilitate blaming the victim. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.