Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Dianne C. Carmody

Committee Member

Scott Maggard

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 V66 2013


Approximately 209,000 women report being raped every year. Of those 209,000 rapes, only 19,491 arrests were made (U.S. Department of Justice 2011). Furthermore, reports estimate that one out of every three women will be raped at some point in her life (Amir, 1971). The prominence of rape in the United States, as well as the disparity between documented rapes to the police and victim reports of rape, is problematic for researchers in fully understanding the breadth of the problem. Considering that rape occurs at such an overwhelmingly high rate and frequently goes unreported, it is important to understand the attitudes and social norms that foster victim blame and reluctance of rape victims to report. Some individuals believe certain cultural stereotypes, known as rape myths, which are pervasive in the United States and foster rape acceptance and victim blame. The underlying belief system which may be attributing to these cultural beliefs is just world beliefs, which asserts that everyone gets what he or she deserves in life. Such a belief system encourages support for rape myths and other victim blaming attitudes, which inhibits victims from recovering, deters victims from reporting and prevents rapists from being appropriately punished. Prior research regarding rape myths and just world beliefs is rather dated, hence the need for more contemporary research regarding the relationship between the two. The current research builds upon and extends previous research, specifically the work of Carmody and Washington (2001), by examining the relationship between rape myth acceptance, just world beliefs, prior victimization, age, education and ethnicity.

It was hypothesized that older more educated individuals would have a lower acceptance of rape myths than younger, less educated individuals. It was also hypothesized that those who scored higher on the just world belief scale would score higher on the rape myth acceptance scale. Furthermore, it was believed that rape victims would score higher on the rape myth acceptance scale than non-victims. All hypotheses were supported with one exception: rape victims did not have higher levels of rape myth acceptance than nonvictims.


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