Are There Differences In the Victim's Experience?


  • Data collection was supported by grant #MH 31618 to the first author from the Antisocial and Violent Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Requests for reprints should be sent to: Mary P. Koss, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychiatry, Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, AZ 85724.


Most published research on the victim–offender relationship has been based on small samples that consisted mainly of women who were raped by nonintimate and nonromantic acquaintances, who viewed their experience as rape, and/or who were seeking treatment. In the present study, 489 rape victims were located among a national sample of 3,187 female college students by a self-report survey that avoided reliance on help-seekers. Two sets of comparisons were performed. First, the experiences reported by victims of stranger rape (n= 52) were compared with those of victims of acquaintance rape (n= 416). Then, the experiences of women assaulted by different types of acquaintances were compared including nonromantic acquaintances (n= 122), casual dates (n= 103), steady dates (n= 147), and spouses or other family members (n= 44). Rapes by acquaintances, compared with strangers, were more likely to involve a single offender and multiple episodes, were less likely to be seen as rape or to be revealed to anyone, and were similar in terms of the victim's resistance. In general, acquaintance rapes were rated as less violent than stranger rapes. The exception was rapes by husbands or other family members which were rated equally violent to stranger rapes but were much less likely to occur in a context of drinking or other drug use. In spite of these different crime characteristics, virtually no differences were found among any of the groups in their levels of psychological symptoms. A significant feature of these data is that they have tapped the experiences of unreported and unacknowledged rape victims, a group that is potentially much larger than the group of identified victims.