The influence of rape myth acceptance, sexual attitudes, and belief in a just world on attributions of responsibility in a date rape scenario


Dr Melissa A. Berry, Department of Psychology, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469, USA (e-mail:


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of rape myth acceptance, belief in a just world, and sexual attitudes on attributions of responsibility in a date rape scenario. We predicted that people higher in rape myth acceptance and those who more strongly believed in a just world, as well as those who held more conservative sexual attitudes, would attribute greater blame to the accuser than to the accused.

Methods. One hundred seventy-two undergraduates from a medium-sized, Catholic university in the USA read a hypothetical date rape scenario and completed the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, the Just World Scale, the Sexual Attitudes Scale, and a Judgment Questionnaire constructed for the current study.

Results. Rape myth acceptance mediated the relationship between gender and judgments of responsibility for the accused and the accuser. Men were more likely to endorse rape myths and, consequently, assign less responsibility to the accused and more responsibility to the accuser than women.

Conclusions. Pre-existing beliefs regarding the nature of rape and the circumstances surrounding it may bias attributions of responsibility in date rape cases. There may be utility in addressing whether jurors hold such beliefs prior to the start of a trial.