Davies, Michelle, Patel, Fehmida and Rogers, Paul
Examining the roles of victim-perpetrator relationship and emotional closeness in judgements toward a depicted child sexual abuse case.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28
The current study investigated the impact that respondent gender, victim–perpetrator relationship, and the level of emotional closeness had on attributions in a hypothetical child sexual abuse case. A total of 160 university students read a hypothetical scenario depicting a female child sexually abused by an adult male. The perpetrator was either the victim’s biological father or her stepfather, with this relationship described as being either emotionally close or emotionally distant. Respondents read one of four (2 victim–perpetrator relationship × 2 emotional closeness) scenarios before completing 26 attribution items pertaining to credibility, blame, and severity. Principle components analysis yielded five factors, namely victim credibility, mother culpability, perpetrator culpability, assault severity, and victim culpability. Multivariate analysis of covariance—controlling for respondent (Caucasian vs. non-Caucasian) ethnicity—revealed, as predicted, significant main effects for respondent gender, victim–perpetrator relationship, and emotional closeness. In general, females assigned more provictim/ antiperpetrator/antimother attributions than males. Results were also suggested that both victim–perpetrator relationship and emotional closeness influence attributions made toward the victim, perpetrator, and nonoffending mother. Methodological issues and suggestions for future work are also discussed.