The Acquaintance Predicament of a Rape Victim1


  • 1

    Computer assistance of Avertano M. Nazareth is gratefully acknowledged.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Suresh Kanekar, Department of Applied Psychology, University of Bombay, Vidyanagari, Bombay 400 098, India.


The acquaintance predicament of a rape victim was examined in six experiments with between-subjects designs with samples drawn from the undergraduate student population of the University of Bombay. The experiments used rape vignettes for the manipulation of all independent variables except subject's sex and were done in three pairs such that each pair had the same independent variables and first dependent measure, namely, recommended years of imprisonment for the rapist. The second dependent measure was attributed victim's fault in the first experiment and perceived likelihood of rape in the second experiment of each pair. The first pair of experiments had a 2 (subject's sex) × 2 (acquainted vs. unacquainted rapist) × 3 (rapist's status: manager, stenotypist, or watchman) × 2 (complaint vs. no complaint by victim) design, with the rape victim being described as a stenotypist. The second pair of experiments differed from the first pair in only one respect, with victim's marital status (married vs. divorced victim) replacing the independent variable of complaint of the first pair. The third pair of experiments had a 2 (subject's sex) × 2 (physically hurt vs. not hurt victim) × 5 (rapist's relationship with victim: husband, fiance, friend, acquaintance, or stranger) design. Female subjects, as compared to male subjects, recommended longer imprisonment for the rapist, attributed less fault to the victim, and perceived greater likelihood of rape. The victim was attributed less fault in case of stranger rape versus acquaintance rape and also less fault in the complaint versus the no complaint condition. Longer imprisonment was recommended for the rapist when the victim was physically hurt rather than not hurt.