Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Alyssa G Robillard

Abstract

The purpose of this pilot study is to ascertain how a sample of female college students perceives a hypothetical victim of a fabricated sexual assault. Participant perceptions of the sexual assault were explored through three distinct parameters: (1) victim responsibility attributes, (2) levels of trauma suffered due to the experience, and (3) levels of social support. This study addressed the two following research questions: (1) how does the hypothetical sexual assault victim's race and ethnicity affect how the study parameters are assessed and (2) how do participants perceive a hypothetical sexual assault victim, when presented in different races and ethnicities, patterned after the jezebel image? Methods: This mixed methods study utilized a randomized post-test-only design to test participant reactions to a hypothetical sexual assault vignette. Participants received a vignette story-line, each with a unique scenario of the "victim" randomly assigned to reflect a Latina, White, or African American female college student. Each participant was asked to complete a paper-pencil survey after reading the vignette, as well as respond to a set of eleven open-ended questions regarding the vignette. In order to ensure optimal randomization of the study vignette, electronic block randomization (found at Randomizer.org) was utilized. Results: Statistical analysis using SPSS revealed no statistically significance for the trauma and responsibility study parameter and marginally significant outputs for the social support study parameter. Quantitative data revealed both overt victim blaming and shaming of the Latina and African American hypothetical victim of sexual assault. Conclusions: Differential perceptions of sexual assault may be formed due to the victim's race and ethnicity.

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