|Title:||Adolescent attitudes about rape.|
|Abstract:||Examines adolescent attitudes about rape in order to develop curricular materials. Exhibition of conservative attitudes about gender roles, general rape myths and victim issues; Examination of common rape myths; Misconceptions about court processes and victims.|
|Full Text Word Count:||1941|
|Database:||Academic Search Premier|
Study after study have demonstrated the vulnerability of young women to rape. Not only are they at risk for stranger rape, but rape within the context of dating (Ageton, 1983; Krasner, Meyer, & Carroll, 1976; Muehlenhard, & Linton, 1987; Warshaw, 1988).
Unfortunately, young women are least likely to contact law enforcement agencies; even so, the numbers are troubling (Violence Against Women: The Increase of Rape, 1990). Between 1973 and 1987, 11% of female victims were deemed to be between the ages of 12 and 15, while 25% were 16 to 19 (Crime of Rape, 1985). Youth Indicators (1991) indicated that 1.9 rapes occurred per 1,000 girls of ages 16 to 19.
Research findings support governmental studies. Walmsley and White (1979) found that 24.3% of rape/attempted rape victims were between 13 and 15. Other studies with similar findings include Medea and Thompson's (1974), where 8% of victims were under age 15, 20% were between 15 and 17, and 23% were 17 to 18. Hall and Flannery (1984) conducted a telephone survey of 508 Milwaukee adolescents in which 12% of the females and 2% of the males reported a sexual assault. In another study of 122 adolescent victims, 45 were between ages 12 to 14; the remaining 77 were ages 15 to 17 (Mann, 1981).
A large number of rape offenders are adolescents. Males between the ages of 12 to 20 were involved in 17% of single-offender rapes for the years 1973-1982 (Crime of Rape, 1985). There was no respite to this trend in the ensuing years. Statistics for years 1979 to 1987 reveal that youths 20 years of age and younger were responsible for 18% of single-offender and 30% of multiple-offender rapes (Female Victims of Violent Crime, 1991). The FBI reports a 3% increase in adult sexual offenders, but the greatest rise in arrested offenders is for adolescent males (Ingrassia, Annin, Biddle, & Miller, 1993),
What do young people believe about rape? Much of our information comes from college-age students. Coercive sex is complicated by the fact that perpetrators and victims are often not cognizant of what constitutes assault (Copenhauer & Graverholz, 1991; Miller & Marshall, 1987; Peterson & Franzese, 1987). Evaluation of adolescent attitudes about rape reveal some illuminating findings. Forced intercourse was considered acceptable by a significant number of both adolescent males and females in certain situations (Felty, Ainslie, & Geib, 1991; Giarusso, Johnson, Goodchilds, & Zellman, 1979; Ogletree, Kupecz, & La-Cursia, 1993). The relationship between victim blaming and adherence to rape myths is also of note in the adolescent population (Blumberg & Lester, 1991). Additionally, an element of male dominance, the perception of females as sex objects, and the negation of acquaintance rape as sexual assault has also been ascertained in our youth (Hall, Howard, & Boezio, 1986).
The present study was initiated to serve as a basis for curriculum development germane to rape prevention. Construction of the survey instrument began with a literature review from which 65 items were extrapolated. Three parents evaluated the items for offensive and/or questionable terminology specific to adolescents. Four adolescents assessed the items for readability.
The original test pool was sent to a review panel. The judges included high school health teachers, school counselors, a physician who works with rape victims, and rape crisis-center coordinators. The judges were asked to evaluate the items for content, clarity, readability, and appropriateness for the adolescent population. The revised scale contained 25 items.
The survey instrument was administered to six health education classes at a high school in northern West Virginia in which 154 students (ages 14-19) were enrolled. Parental permission was obtained for 146 students to participate. On the day of administration, 13 students were absent, and 11 students were not included because of missing data, resulting in 122 participants with completed instruments.
Of the 25 items, one was eliminated because it was found to have a negative item-to-total correlation: "Our society usually does not tolerate violence against women." Split-half correlation was found to be .77 with a coefficient alpha of .80, indicating good internal consistency. Responses to the survey instrument items ranged from one to five with a higher score indicating less conservative attitudes about rape. Mean score collectively was 82.77 (S10.63). A certain amount of ambiguity can be assumed for items with scores of less than 4.0. These students obviously were not uncomfortable with the notion of girls asking boys out on dates, but other gender questions (#1, #4, #5, #18, and #20) elicited some confusion concerning male and female roles and perceptions.
A number of common rape myths were examined. The students did not view the rapist as necessarily a person with a criminal history, perhaps because of increased media attention to the problem of date/ acquaintance rape. Interestingly, most students disagreed with the notion that women can fight off a rapist, yet did adhere to myths about stranger rape (#8), pregnancy (#9), male rape (#24). and sexual needs of rapists (#3). Unfortunately, most confusion is related to female responsibility for rape such as manner of dress (#12), rape fantasy (#6), and provocation (#23).
Victims of rape are often subject to intense scrutiny by society. This holds true for the adolescent population in this study. These students adhered to common misconceptions about court processes and victims, specifically sexual history (#15), victim responsibility (#11), and prosecution realities (#9 and #17). The status of the victim is also in question (#7 and #10). Rape victims have been found to suffer from myriad physical and emotional traumas (Burgess & Holmstrom, 1979). Students may not be aware of the rape reaction process as indicated by responses to items 13 and 21.
A number of implications for development of a rape prevention curriculum can be determined from this preliminary study. Obviously, it is not enough to educate only young women in prevention strategies. Doing so would perpetuate the notion of female responsibility for avoiding rape victimization (Felty et al., 1991; Freeing Our Lives, 1978). Additionally, since a growing number of rape perpetrators are male, the curriculum must include adolescent boys.
By addressing the sociocultural aspects of rape, students may learn to identify what constitutes exploitive nonconsensual sex, reject commonly held myths about rape and victims, and begin to adopt egalitarian belief systems that may decrease the incidence of rape.
Legend for Chart: A - Item B - Strongly Disagree/Disagree % C - Undecided % D - Strongly Agree/Agree % E - -- X F - S A B C D E F 1. Generally, women should not be out alone at night. 22 30 48 2.70 1.40 2. Rapists usually have a history of criminal behavior. 65 31 4 4.00 .94 3. Rapists have a greater need for sex than other people. 54 24 22 3.52 1.22 4. Women are often portrayed as sex objects in the media.[a] 22 30 48 2.72 .97 5. The main role of a wife is to take care of her husband. 39 20 42 2.98 1.19 6. Most women fantasize about being raped by a man. 15 33 52 2.52 1.09 7. It is easier for a roamed woman, than a single woman, to get over being raped. 22 29 50 2.72 1.01 8. Stranger rape is a more serious crime than date rape. 54 29 17 3.67 1.25 9. A rape victim should actively resist throughout an attack. 15 30 55 2.49 .92 10. Raping a virgin is more serious than raping someone who is not a virgin. 57 33 10 3.72 .97 11. In most cases, the rape victim shares some of the responsibility for the attack. 65 25 10 3.88 1.03 12. Some girls encourage rape just by the way they dress. 27 27 46 2.87 1.16 13. The best way to get over being raped is to avoid thinking about it. 13 42 45 2.63 .82 14. A woman will fight off a man if she really wants to avoid being raped. 86 8 6 4.30 .93 15. A victim's sexual history should not be made public during a rape trial.[a] 18 50 33 2.82 .82 16. It is easier to believe a physically injured rape victim than one who has no injuries. 79 14 7 4.11 .93 17. The victim should be required to prove his/her innocence during a rape trial. 32 34 35 3.03 1.04 18. The best relationships are those in which the man is in control. 59 29 12 3.62 .94 19. Many girls falsely report rape if they are facing an unwanted pregnancy. 42 27 31 3.23 1.20 20. Strong men do not cry. 63 16 21 3.57 1.21 21. Victims of rape react in a similar manner. 49 43 9 3.58 .93 22. Girls should not ask boys out on dates. 77 19 4 4.29 .94 23. Some women provoke men into raping them. 26 22 53 2.63 .82 24. Most men who are raped are gay. 62 21 17 3.77 1.20
a reverse scored
Some percentages exceed 100 because of rounding.
Response indicative of less conservative attitudes about rape: Disagree for all except for #4 and #15.
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By Ruth Kershner
Ruth Kershner, RN, Ed.D., CHES, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
Reprint requests to Ruth Kershner, 352 Grandview Avenue, Morgantown, WV 26505.