Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Amy Hackney


When a sexual assault case is tried in court there is often a lack of physical evidence, leading jurors to rely on the general information they know about a topic when determining a verdict. When jurors rely on their general knowledge, preexisting stereotypes and prejudice can influence their decision. One type of stereotype is rape myths- false beliefs about rape victims, the situation surrounding a rape, and rapists. One understudied rape myth is the myth that victims who report their rape immediately are more credible than those who wait to report. Rape myths can be used to shift blame away from a perpetrator and onto a victim and to justify the sexual victimization of women. Within the court system, expert testimony has been used to debunk preexisting beliefs about many topics, such as rape myths. The current study sought to analyze the effect of expert testimony on mock jurors’ levels of rape myth acceptance and victim blame. In this online study, participants read a sexual assault vignette in which the victim reported a rape to the police immediately or delayed by one week. Participants were also randomly assigned to receive an expert testimony or no expert testimony. Results indicated that the use of an expert testimony was effective in reducing belief in the myth that timing of report was related to victim credibility. Results also showed that men were significantly higher in levels of victim blame, belief in timing myth, and general levels of rape myth acceptance than women. Implications and limitations of findings are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons