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Attitudes toward Rape

Attitudes toward Rape
Feminist and Social Psychological Perspectives

June 1995 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This innovative book looks at popular perceptions of sexual violence and asks such key questions as: How is `rape' defined? Who is responsible for sexual assault? How can rape be prevented?

The author critically examines feminist and psychological theory and research on attitudes towards rape. Drawing on case studies, survey research, experiments, fieldwork and action-oriented research from Europe, North America and Asia, Ward combines qualitative and quantitative approaches to understanding sexual violence. She highlights the negative consequences for rape victims of biased and prejudicial perceptions of sexual violence, including those of legal, medical and helping professionals, and discusses the impact of these attitudes on victims' self-perceptions.

The book concludes by suggesting strategies for changing ideas about sexual assault, including, for example, action-oriented research which is designed to raise consciousness and improve services for victims.

Feminist Visions
Attitudes toward Rape and Rape Victims
Survey Research

Rape Perceptions and Attributions
Experimental Research

Social and Institutional Responses to Rape
Field Research

Returning to the Victim
Theory and Research on Psychological Reactions to Sexual Violence

Changing Attitudes
Changing Systems
Feminist Action-Oriented Research


`An excellent introduction to much of what is known about the treatment of rape and rape victims in our society. The text is well-written, clear and easy to read, and will be particularly interesting as a general introduction to those not familiar with the area and to students/researchers who may find the book useful as a reference guide to the proliferation of studies on rape' - British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Section Newsletter

`The argument that rape myths are widespread and have far-reaching adverse consequences for both individuals and societies is convincing... This is a book which should be useful not only to academic feminists, but to all researchers at the interface of women, crime and society' - Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

`Colleen Ward is to be congratulated for making an important and valuable contribution to the literature on rape and other forms of sexual violence which synthesises political and psychological perspectives... scholarly, thorough and well-written... It is difficult to find fault with the book. Clearly, this is a specialist area of work, one in which the author is well-versed and competent... The book certainly contains important messages for us all, serving to remind us of the enormous contribution feminist thinking and analysis has made to this area... Colleen Ward has done a magnificent job of integrating feminist thinking and research with social psychological research, writing in a clear, careful and concise manner. The book should be of interest to anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge and understanding of sexual violence. It will also be helpful to students interested in research methodology, illustrating the applications of feminist and social psychological research methods to a serious social problem. It will be particularly useful to practitioners working with victims and/or perpetrators of sexual violence toward women, or involved in training personnel who have professional contact with the victims of rape, such as members of the judiciary, police officers and psychotherapists... [and to] anyone carrying out research on attitudes toward rape and other forms of sexual violence' - The Journal of Sexual Aggression

`A strength of this book is Ward's focus on presenting cross-cultural research. For example, she provides information on a study in which attitudes toward rape victims were assessed in 15 countries... This book would serve an important purpose if it were to stimulate more cross-cultural research. Another strength is the extensive review of sexual assault research that has been conducted since the 1970s. Ward does a particularly good job of describing early research, which some young researchers may not have studied... Ward thoroughly describes different theoretical and methodological approaches that have been used in attitude research. She explains technical terms very clearly so that prior knowledge of these issues is not required... This book provides a good overview to someone unfamiliar with this area of research' - Contemporary Psychology

`Anyone who wants factual information about what people believe about sexual assault or wants to change those perceptions should read this book. That only 46% of American university students believe that men, and not victimized women, are responsible for rape tells us how much re-education is still needed about sexual assault. That women raped by a third person are then abandoned by their boyfriends tells us how far we have to go in supporting victims, and in helping their partners to cope with their perceptions and ability to support, or at least not to blame, their partners' - The Women's Advocate

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