Acquaintance versus stranger rape: Testing the ambiguity reduction hypothesis



After reading a vignette about a hypothetical rape incident, 240 undergraduate students of the University of Bombay recommended imprisonment for the rapist and attributed fault to the rape victim. The experiment had a 2 (subject's sex) 2 (schoolteacher versus callgirl victim) × 2 (acquainted versus stranger rapist) × 2 (victim's physical resistance versus no physical resistance) factorial design with 15 subjects per cell. As predicted, attributed victim's fault was greater and recommended rapist's imprisonment was shorter with male rather than female subjects, with the callgirl rather than schoolteacher victim, and with no physical resistance rather than with physical resistance. Greater fault was also attributed to the acquainted rather than unacquainted victim. These main effects and the interaction effects were discussed primarily in light of the proposition that acquaintance rape is viewed less seriously than stranger rape because of ambiguity regarding the acquainted victim's consent.