Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Michael Olson

Committee Members

Deborah Welsh, Todd Moore, Rebecca Bolen

Abstract

Rape supportive attitudes may be important predictors of sexual assault perpetration; yet, past research has assessed rape supportive attitudes almost exclusively through self-report measures that are methodologically and theoretically limited. To address these limitations, the purpose of the current project was to extend a novel implicit rape attitude assessment procedure (Widman & Olson, 2009) by examining the implicit rape attitudes of convicted sex offenders and a matched community control sample while situating implicit rape attitudes within a broader theoretical framework of sexual assault. Participants were 36 convicted sex offenders (M age = 39, 86% Caucasian) and 48 demographically matched, low-income community men (29 with a history of sexual assault perpetration, 19 without a history of sexual assault perpetration; M age = 36, 83% Caucasian). Between group comparisons revealed that sex offenders who committed an offense against an adult woman (n = 3) held significantly more pro-rape implicit attitudes than nonoffending community men; yet these same convicted offenders reported less self-reported rapesupportive attitudes. Additionally, within the community sample, implicit attitudes predicted the frequency of sexual assault perpetration and accounted for significant variance in sexual offending above and beyond traditional self-reported rape-supportive attitudes (i.e., rape myth acceptance, hostility toward women, and sexual dominance). Further, implicit rape attitudes accounted for sexual assault perpetration when situated within the comprehensive confluence model of sexual assault (Malamuth, 2003). Finally, results revealed extremely high rates of sexual assault in this low-income community sample (60%) and provide unique descriptive data on the self-reported sexual assaults of convicted sex offenders. Findings from this study suggest valuable avenues for future research and have important implications for rape prevention and treatment aimed at reducing the burden of sexual assault. These implications are thoroughly discussed.

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