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Disability and Sexual Assault

The Influence of Disability on Attributions of Blame toward Victims of Sexual Assault – Shelby Hughes, Kaylee Skoda, Alexandria Parsons, Kailie Brown, & Cory L. Pedersen


The current study examined perceptions of blame toward a female sexual assault victim to determine whether disability status as
either disabled or able-bodied would impact the level of attributed blame. Given misconceptions of women living with physical
disabilities as asexual and not possessing the same sexual needs and desires as their able-bodied counterparts, we hypothesized
that less blame for a sexual assault would be attributed to a victim with a physical disability than to one without a physical
disability. Results did not support this hypothesis. In fact, levels of victim blame appear to be stable; both vignette characters were
identified as equally culpable for their sexual assault. Interestingly, the vignette character living with a physical disability was
identified as having a higher need for intimacy than their non-disabled counterpart. As predicted, male participants held more
blaming attitudes than female participants across both conditions. Males also perceived the victim in both conditions to have
more sexual need than females did. The findings are discussed with reference to gender role adherence, perceptions of vulnerability,and belief in a just world. Theoretical and practical implications are considered.


Article published in the journal, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, doi: 10.1007/s13178-019-00384-2

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