Type of Document Dissertation Author Sawtell, Carolyn Sloane Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-11092008-151050 Title The Victim-Perpetrator Relationship in the Crime of Rape: Victims' Mental Well-Being Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Sociology, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Patricia Yancey Martin Committee Chair Brian Starks Committee Member Irene Padavic Committee Member John Reynolds Committee Member Linda Vinton Outside Committee Member Keywords
- Mental Well-Being
- Just World Hypothesis
- Crisis Theory
- Cumulative Adversity
- Sexual Battery
- Sexual Assault
Date of Defense 2008-07-28 Availability unrestricted AbstractNearly 75 percent of rapes reported to law enforcement in the U. S. in the recent past were committed by someone known to the victim (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2003). Rape scripts allocate extensive blame to women in known-perpetrator cases thus we have good reasons to understand the consequences for victims of these kinds of rapes (versus stranger-perpetrated rape). Little research focuses on the impact of the victim-perpetrator relationship on the victim’s mental well-being. Using the National Survey of Violence Against Women—a nationally representative sample of 8,000 adult women in the United States, this study addresses this issue.
The dissertation poses five questions. First, which women have higher odds of being raped and do these odds vary according to their relationship to their rapist? Second, what effects does rape have on a victim’s emotional well-being and are these effects shaped by the victim’s relationship to her rapist? Third, do dynamics associated with blame, satisfaction with the legal process, and experiences with help-seeking mediate the association between victim-perpetrator relationship and its consequences? Fourth, how do the particulars of the rape (including drug/alcohol use and rape violence affect a victim’s mental well-being? Fifth, does prior adversity in the form of physical abuse moderate the relationship between rape the victim’s mental well-being?
The study tests seven hypotheses. Among the key findings are the following. (1) Some women have higher odds than others of being raped by particular kinds of perpetrators. (2) The experience of rape harms victims’ mental well-being, regardless of their relationship to the perpetrator. (3) Help-seeking and blame do not mediate the harm associated with rape except for women raped by relatives, whereas satisfaction—rather dissatisfaction—with the legal process does so. (4) While the victim-perpetrator relationship rape fails to significantly predict depression and substance abuse after a rape occurs, women who were raped by partners and relatives who used drugs or alcohol during the rape appear to suffer somewhat lower rates of mental depression afterwards. (5) Finally, women who had formerly experienced physical abuse (either as a child or adult) reported poorer mental well-being after being raped.
Other findings are as follows. The impact of rape on a victim is affected by the relationship of the victim and her rapist, even within the known-perpetrator category. Being raped by a partner appears to have unique effects. Partner-perpetrated rapes are particularly violent and they result in a higher likelihood of reporting by the victim to the authorities. Yet women who are raped by a partner are no more likely than other victims are to have charges filed in their cases. Third, rapes by a date or boyfriend fail to predict poorer mental well-being in the victim, compared to women raped by other types of known perpetrators.
This study applied theory to portions of the analysis—Just World Hypothesis, Crisis Theory and Cumulative Adversity Theory—with a goal of ascertaining if the effects of rape vary for women raped by different types of perpetrators, some support was found for the latter two theories but none for the Just World Hypothesis. The study offers post-hoc interpretations for why date rape appears to harm a victim's mental well-being less than other types of known-perpetrator rapes, why the perpetrator’s use of drugs/alcohol during commission of rapes by partners or relatives seem less destructive for victims, and why blame by society or by the victim in acquaintance rapes appears to protect the victim against depression. The study concludes with a caution about some limitations of the sample, measures, and analysis and with suggestions about the policy and research implications of the findings.
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