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Differences Between Rape Victims Who Report and Those Who Do Not Report to a Public Agency

NCJ Number
Journal of Applied Social Psychology Volume: 14 Issue: 6 Dated: (November-December 1984) Pages: 562-573
S Feldman-Summers; J Norris
Date Published
12 pages
A study of 179 female rape victims who either reported or did not report the rape showed that reporting behavior was the result of perceptions of outcomes of reporting a rape, social expectations for or against reporting, the victim's individual characteristics, and the situational characteristics of the rape.
The study's participants were recruited through public notices in community clinics, in clinics established for rape victims, in local newspapers, and through public service announcements on radio and television. The participants completed questionnaires dealing with their attitudes toward self and others, beliefs about rape, perceived outcomes of reporting a rape, social expectations regarding reporting, and circumstances surrounding the rape. Forty-eight of the subjects reported to the police only, 8 reported to a social service agency only, 73 reported to both the police and an agency, and 50 reported to neither. The subjects averaged 27.5 years in age and were nearly all Caucasian. Women who reported to a social service agency were more likely than nonreporters to believe that reporting would result both in psychological well-being and in tests to detect pregnancy or venereal disease. They were also more likely to have experienced family expectations in favor of reporting. Those who reported to the police were more likely than nonreporters to believe that the police would treat them positively and that they would not have to testify in a trial. They were also more likely to have suffered injuries requiring medical attention, not to have been raped by an acquaintance and to have stronger family expectations regarding reporting. If social service and law enforcement agencies want to increase the rate of reporting, they need to assure that victims experience favorable outcomes and that these outcomes be communicated to the population of actual and potential victims. Efforts to strengthen social norms supporting reporting are also needed. Seventeen references are listed. (Author abstract modified)


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