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Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to identify individual differences affecting perceptions of a rapist and a rape victim. It was hypothesized that sex of observer, attitudes towards women, sexuality, the rape itself and perceptions of the targets on a number of behavioral dimensions would predict target perception. Each subject rated one of four persons: a male rapist, a female rape victim, a male control target, or a female control target. The ratings reflected personal impressions of the target and degree of social distance desired. Not surprisingly, the rapist was perceived least favorably. The rape victim did not receive ratings different from the female control target. However, when individual differences were taken into account, it was found that negative attitudes towards women, belief in rape myths, and perceived target behavior (e.g. responsibility) were related to stigmatization of the rape victim, and predicted more favorable perceptions of the rapist. Sex of the observer and attitudes towards sexuality were not among the major predictors of target perception. Implications of these findings are discussed.