Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Environmental Science (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

General Human Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Jacquelyn D. Wiersma-Mosley

Committee Member

Jennifer Becnel

Second Committee Member

Kristen N. Jozkowski

Keywords

Psychology, University, College, Fraternities, Sororities, Perpetrators, Sexual assault

Abstract

When people think of a typical sexual assault, they rely heavily on preconceived notions of sexual violence, which often represents stereotypical rape scenarios. Many stereotypical depictions of perpetrators tend to be centered around individuals who are strangers, mentally ill, lonely, with poor or impoverished upbringing. How perpetrators and victims are depicted impact the likelihood of others believing victims and attributing guilt to perpetrators. This may contribute to societal endorsement of acquaintance rape as not real compared to stereotypical rape scenarios. The current study examines how college students, and in particular fraternity men and sorority women, view perpetrators of sexual assault. We focused on fraternity men and sorority women given Greek affiliated students’ high risk for sexual assault perpetration and victimization. Affiliated Greek men are over represented among sexual assault perpetrators, and one-third of rapes occur in fraternity. Additionally, sorority women are also at elevated risk for victimization of sexual assault.

Using Social Identity Theory, this study measured perpetrator perceptions of those in the in group (Greek affiliated) versus the out group (Non-affiliated) among 943 college students, in which 55% of which were Greek affiliated. Men had more stereotypes than women regarding rape myths, hostility toward women, and more stereotypical perceptions of perpetrators. There was no difference in perpetrator perceptions among sorority women and non-affiliated women. Fraternity men have higher stereotypical perceptions compared to all women, and non-Greek men. The current study demonstrates a relationship between perpetrator perceptions, rape myth acceptance, and hostility toward women, as well as more stereotypical perceptions especially for Greek men. Such findings have important implications for societal perceptions of sexual assault; the way individuals perceive perpetrators could effect the punishment on college campuses, in the criminal justice system, as well as society.

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