This 5th blog in the series of 10 discusses psychosocial beliefs and attitudes that support rape. This blog examines three vital areas that potential victims need to understand and work through to have the mental preparedness that will best help them to prevent rape. We examine psychosocial beliefs and attitudes that support rape, psychosocial barriers to rape, as well as factors that increase the victim’s effectiveness during a sexual assault.
Psychosocial Beliefs And Attitudes That Support Rape
What Do We Mean By Psychosocial Attitudes?
People develop various ways of seeing the world, depending on their psychological make-up, modelling behaviour, social interactions and other factors. We then tend to hold on firmly to these beliefs. They influence our identity and in turn, this influences how we filter later experiences.
What Are Psychosocial Barriers To Effectively Resisting Rape?
We live in a male-dominated society. There is no way around this statement. Yes, western democracies and indeed certain other nations have been becoming more and more ‘liberal’ when it comes to gender. Women tend to be enfranchised (though sadly not everywhere) and are also forcing their way onto the many slippery corporate ladders within the workforce. Dual-income families have become the norm in many nations and many women continue to work when they have children. So superficially women are well on their way to achieving equality.
The truth though is that many men – and indeed many women themselves – still have strongly bigoted attitudes towards a woman’s value and role in society. These play out in an array of psychosocial discriminatory beliefs about women, which have proved difficult to alter even with treatment programs.
Psychosocial beliefs and attitudes that support rape reinforce the position that women can be treated like objects, that they are often to blame if they are raped, or indeed that it isn’t rape at all!
Let’s take a quick look at how these bigoted male psychosocial beliefs translate into an array of rape myths.
Rape Myths That Are Entirely False And Yet Are Often Still Present In Today’s Society:
- A woman who gets raped usually deserves it, especially if she has agreed to go to a man’s house or park with him. FALSE!
- If a woman agrees to allow a man to pay for dinner, drinks, etc., then it means she owes him sex. FALSE!
- Acquaintance rape is committed by men who are easy to identify as rapists. FALSE!
- Women who don’t fight back haven’t been raped. FALSE!
- Intimate kissing or certain kinds of touching mean that intercourse is inevitable. FALSE!
- Once a man reaches a certain point of arousal, sex is inevitable and they can’t help forcing themselves upon a woman. FALSE!
- Most women lie about acquaintance rape because they have regrets after consensual sex. FALSE!
- Women who say “No” really mean “Yes.” FALSE!
- Certain behaviours such as drinking or dressing in a sexually appealing way make rape a woman’s responsibility. FALSE!
If you are reading this, whether male or female and cannot see why any of these statements are entirely false, please drop me an email and we can take a look at the offending statement in more detail.
Psychosocial Barriers To Rape
Psychosocial barriers to rape occur when a person’s bigoted beliefs and attitudes regarding value and roles of men and women lead to a situation where the potential victim of sexual coercion and/or an attempted rape does not feel willing or able to assert or defend themselves to try to prevent the rape.
9 Psychosocial Barriers To Women Effectively Resisting Rape
Psychosocial barriers to effectively resisting rape include: 1,2
- fear of rejection by, or insecurity about relationships with men
- Fear of rejection by their peer network
- Embarrassment / shame
- The perception that they are too intoxicated to resist effectively
- having been victimized in the past
- drinking more alcohol
- having multiple sexual partners
- struggling with poor psychological adjustment
- experiencing insecurity about relationships with men
These fears too often appear to be correct, as negative social reactions such as blaming, stigmatizing, and just plain disbelief that the act committed was rape still are common in today’s society.4 Sadly, women are in fact often blamed for being raped or for defending themselves.
Factors Improving Effectiveness During Sexual Assault
It has been found that irrespective of a woman’s psychosocial beliefs, certain factors make it more likely that they will assert themselves or fight back. Factors improving women’s assertiveness and effectiveness during acquaintance sexual assault: 2. 3.
- when he used physical force
- when she didn’t fear inducing a more violent response from her assailant
- when she was not concerned about preserving the relationship
- when she felt angry or resentful
- when she felt happy/less sad and when she felt confident
- when she didn’t fear rejection by her social networks
- when she was not afraid that her level of alcohol intake might make her resistance ineffective
In synthesis there are 3 vital psychosocial areas that you need to understand about yourself to help prevent completed rape:
- Your particular psychosocial beliefs and attitudes that are correlated with rape
- Your own distinctive psychosocial barriers to preventing completed rape
- Your unique psychosocial factors that create a mindset in which you are most likely to fight back (despite any prevailing psychosocial attitudes or barriers)
Know Yourself And Know Your Social Support
Once again I must stress that rape victims are never responsible for being raped. Nevertheless, if this blog has done its job you should be aware that there are considerable benefits in understanding and working through any gender-related or psychological issues or beliefs that might make you vulnerable to being raped.
All of us have our own unique histories, personalities, issues, weaknesses and strengths. None of these make us any more responsible for being raped. However, understanding oneself can definitely help!
Information and understanding are empowering; they help create survivors, not victims!
The more that women have worked through all those rape myths mentioned above and truly believed the rational alternative, the more they will be able to assert this in the face of attempted rape. Equally, if they have chatted to their friends, family and loved ones about their perceptions around rape it will allow them to feel more empowered and less judged.
Take whatever steps are necessary so that you are psychologically prepared to assert yourself and where necessary fight back if you are confronted by a rapist, whether you know them or not!
This series How to prevent being raped will detour slightly next week when we put on our researcher hats for part 6 of 10 Male Prevention and Treatment programs, before returning to what women need to do to prevent rape in part 7 of 10 Fighting back – avoiding completed rape.
- Greene, D. M., & Navarro, R. L. (1998). Situation-specific assertiveness in the epidemiology of sexual victimization among university women: A prospective path analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 589-604.
- Norris, J., Nurius, P. S., & Dimeff, L. A. (1996). Through her eyes: Factors affecting women’s perception of and resistance to acquaintance sexual aggression threat. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 123-145.
- Nurius, P. S. (2000). Risk perception of acquaintance sexual aggression: A social-cognitive perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5, 63-79.
Ullman, S. E. (1999). Social support and recovery from sexual assault: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal, 4, 343-358.