Term of Award

Spring 2025

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Dorthia Cross

Committee Member 1

Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 2

Ryan Couillou


Previous research examined the effect of victim gender and rape myth acceptance (RMA) on perceptions of victim credibility; however, little attention has been given to the impact of victim race and mental health history, and even fewer studies have explored the intersection of these two identities. The primary purpose of the current study was to identify factors affecting understanding of perceived credibility of victims of sexual assault, specifically in terms of victim race and mental health history. The study also examined the role of RMA on perceptions of credibility and explored participant attitudes related to color-blind racial attitudes and mental illness stigma, as well as religiousness and rurality. 689 college students participated in an anonymous online study in which they (1) read and evaluated a fictional news article describing testimony of woman who had been sexual assaulted and (2) completed questionnaires related to RMA, color-blind racial attitudes, mental illness stigma, religiousness, and rurality. Only 199 participants demonstrated sufficient effort in the first section (vignette), but 545 demonstrated sufficient effort in the second (questionnaires). A planned 2 (Victim Race: Black, White) x 3 [Victim Diagnosis: Asthma (Control), Depression, Schizophrenia] between-subjects ANOVA was conducted and revealed no significant effects on perceived victim credibility. Another planned 2 (Victim Race) x 3 (Victim Diagnosis) x 3 (Participant RMA: Low vs. High) between-subjects ANOVA was conducted and showed that participants with high RMA perceived the victim as less credible compared to participants with low RMA. Victim race and diagnosis were again not significant. Both analyses were limited by the large volume of insufficient effort leading to greater-than-expected exclusions. Several exploratory analyses were conducted, including comparing participants who grew up in rural and non-rural areas on self-reported RMA, color-blind racial attitudes, ableist attitudes, and religiousness. No differences were found. Correlations revealed RMA, racist attitudes, and ableist attitudes significantly positively correlated, and religiousness positively correlated with RMA and racist attitudes, but not ableist attitudes. These findings and others are discussed. Understanding factors contributing to victim credibility may help clinicians and educators create effective interventions, particularly for survivors from marginalized communities.

Research Data and Supplementary Material