Gender Versus Gender Role in Attributions of Blame for a Sexual Assault


  • The authors thank Caitlin Cassidy, Cassandra Class, Kristin Frichtl, Lisa Hughes, Kristen Letnick, Kathleen McCraw, Cathryn Thierry, and Sarah J. Wilson for helping to conduct a pilot investigation for this study; and Kevin Apple and Natalie Lawrence for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Arnold S. Kahn, Department of Psychology–MSC 7704, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807. E-mail:


To examine whether gender differences in attributions of blame for a sexual assault are a result of gender differences in identification with members of their own gender or identification with gender roles (men identifying with the powerful assailant and women with the less powerful victim), women (n = 177) and men (n = 128) made attributions of blame for an assault in which the assailant's gender and the victim's gender were factorially manipulated. Regardless of the gender of the assailant and victim, women identified more with the victim, while men identified more with the assailant. Consistent with a modified defensive attribution hypothesis, women blamed the assailant more than did men; however, no significant effects were found for victim blame.