PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAPER HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN PSYCHOLOGY OF WOMEN QUARTERLY (1994: VOL. 18, PP. 53-66). IT IS BEING MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE IN LIEU OF SENDING PREPRINTS THROUGH THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE. SINCE THERE MAY HAVE BEEN CHANGES IN THE TEXT IN THE COPY-EDITING PHASE, PLEASE DO NOT USE QUOTES FROM THIS DRAFT. CORRESPONDENCE ABOUT THIS PAPER SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO ARNOLD KAHN AT kahnas @ jmu.edu .
Past research has discovered that nearly half of college- aged women who experience forced, non-consensual sexual intercourse, do not label their experience as rape. We found evidence that these unacknowledged rape victims possess more violent, stranger rape scripts than do acknowledged rape victims who are more likely to have a rape script of an acquaintance rape. The difference in rape scripts between acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims was not due to different demographics or actual rape experience. However, unacknowledged victims did have a sexual history which involved less force than did acknowledged victims. Apparently, most unacknowledged victims do not define their rape experience as rape because they have a rape script of a violent, stranger, blitz rape which did not match their experience of being raped in a less forceful manner by someone with whom they were acquainted. The extent to which their less forceful sexual histories is related to their more violent rape scripts remains to be investigated.
Rape has been the subject of considerable controversy in terms of it's definition (e.g., Muehlenhard, Powch, Phelps, & Giusti, 1992) and frequency of occurrence (Koss, 1992). Making accurate estimates even more difficult is the fact that many women may not know they have been raped. When Mary Koss developed the Sexual Experience Survey (SES) (Koss & Oros, 1982) she was able to measure the extent to which women who indicated they had not been raped, actually had an experience which would legally be defined as rape. That is, they indicated they had nonconsensual sexual intercourse because of force or threat of force, but responded "no" to the question, "Have you ever been raped?" Koss (1985) called these women "unacknowledged rape victims." In one sample, Koss (1985) found that 12.7% of the respondents had been raped and 43% of these women were unacknowledged victims. Using a slightly different questionnaire with a national sample of college students, Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski (1987) found 15.4% of the women to have experienced rape.
The reasons why some women acknowledge their victimization as rape while others do not has been elusive. One explanation may be that acknowledged and unacknowledged victims had different dating or sexual experiences, or different attitudes or personalities. Koss (1985), however, found no differences between acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims in dating behaviors, various situational aspects of the rape experience, reactions to the experience, personality, or attitudes about rape. The only difference to emerge in this study was that unacknowledged victims were more likely to have been raped by an acquaintance than acknowledged victims. Levine- MacCombie and Koss (1986) found no differences in the resistance strategies used by acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims.
Parrot (1991) suggested four reasons why victims would not identify their rape as rape: concern for the rapist, self-blame, the social stereotype of "real" rape, and the victim's attempt to repress the rape memory. Of particular interest in the present study was what Parrot (1991) referred to as the social stereotype of the "real" rape. That is, one reason some unacknowledged rape victims exist may be that their "rape script" does not match their "rape experience." Scripts describe normal behaviors for particular events, and deviations from the ordinary require new interpretations (Markus & Zajonc, 1985). If a woman has a script of a rape that is descriptive of a blitz rape- -a situation in which a woman is attacked, usually outdoors, by a stranger who is likely to have a weapon, threaten physical violence, and inflict pain while forcing intercourse--and instead is raped by an assailant who was known and trusted, indoors, in which there was little or no force, there would be a discrepancy between her rape experience and her rape script. Given this discrepancy, the victim may view the incident as something other than rape (Parrot, 1991; Russell, 1975; Weis & Borges, 1973).
Ryan (1988) used scripts to show that college women have very different rape and seduction scripts. When compared to their seduction scripts, rape scripts contained more aggression by the attacker, more resistance by the victim, and more closely resembled a blitz rape. Bourque (1989) and Parrot (1991) have also suggested that the determining factor in labelling sexual experience as rape is the degree of aggression or level of force. If acquaintance rape typically involves a lower level of aggression or force, it is possible that many women view non-consensual sex with an acquaintance as extreme seduction rather than as rape. 1
The current research investigated the rape scripts of acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims. We expected unacknowledged victims to be more likely than acknowledged victims to report rape scripts indicating a blitz rape. In a pilot study designed to test this hypothesis, Torgler (1991) analyzed the rape scripts of 32 unacknowledged victims, 12 acknowledged victims and 142 non-victims. The assailant could be categorized as either a stranger or an acquaintance in 128 of the scripts. As predicted, unacknowledged victims were more likely to write stranger rape scripts (59.1%) than acquaintance rape scripts (40.9%), while acknowledged victims were more likely to write acquaintance rape scripts (83.3%) than stranger rape scripts (16.7%). A greater percentage of unacknowledged victims wrote physically aggressive scripts compared to acknowledged victims.
Although the results of the pilot study supported our hypotheses, it also revealed a number of issues that needed to be addressed in the present study. For example, the Sexual Experience Survey was always given first. This may have sensitized respondents to the issue of forced sexual intercourse, leading the acknowledged victims to think about their own rape experience and to use it as the basis for their scripts rather than a using a general script of rape. In the pilot study we did not ask participants who had been raped to describe their rape experiences so there was no way to determine whether the actual rape experiences of acknowledged and unacknowledged victims were identical. Finally, most rape scripts were extremely short and difficult to code because details were not provided. To address these problems, the present study used a larger sample, used instructions intended to elicit longer scripts, used more detailed coding procedures, and obtained more information about the actual rape experiences of the victims, particularly the acknowledged victims.
The experimenters were nine upper-level undergraduate females who received training from Citizens Against Sexual Assault (CASA) to handle any emotional difficulties participants might have. Two or three experimenters were present at each data collection session.Participants
The participants were 205 female students at James Madison University. Some participants were recruited from the department subject pool and tested in groups, others completed the questionnaires during scheduled classes.2 In five cases the SES was not completed and in two cases was completed in a contradictory fashion (they check "no" to items which would have indicated they had been raped, but check "yes" to the item asking if they had been raped. These women could not be categorized and their data were dropped from the analysis. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 49 with the median age of 21. The sample included students from all academic levels, with the largest percentage (45.4%) in their senior year.Procedure
Participants were asked to complete anonymously three questionnaires: a slightly modified version of the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES) (Koss & Oros, 1982), a rape script survey, and a demographic survey. Seven items on the SES were used to determine participants' rape status. In addition to the original three items used by Koss and Oros (1982) to assess whether a woman had been forcibly raped, we added four items to assess unforced but nonconsensual intercourse (Muehlenhard, et al., 1992): "Had sexual intercourse with a man when you didn't want to because he threatened to harm someone you cared about if you didn't," "...he threatened to spread rumors about you," "...you had been drinking and you couldn't stop him," "...you had been using drugs and you couldn't stop him." These four items were included because scientists and policy makers are increasingly coming to view rape as broader than forced intercourse (Muehlenhard, et al., 1992). Unacknowledged rape victims responded "yes" to at least one of these seven questions and "no" to a question on the demographic form, "Have you ever been raped?" Participants who responded "yes" to the rape item were classified as acknowledged victims. Non-victims were participants who responded "no" to each of the seven items and to the rape question. Following the SES, participants who had checked "yes" to any of these seven items were asked to respond to questions about their relationship to the attacker. This allowed us to determine whether they had been raped by a stranger or acquaintance and the number of assailants involved. Half of the participants completed the SES before writing their rape script, and half after writing their rape script. 3
To obtain rape scripts, participants were given a handout which began, "We are interested in examples of how people describe a variety of events. For example, below is a description of a person buying groceries." There followed a detailed, paragraph-long description of a person shopping for groceries. After reading this description, they were asked to "write a description of the events occurring before, during, and after a rape" and provided with two sheets of lined, blank paper. The word "script" was never mentioned.
A final section included questions to assess demographic information (age, year in school, marital status), whether the respondent knew someone who had been raped, whether she had been raped, and, if she had been raped, the extent to which the rape description matched her own experience (1 = completely different, 7 = exactly the same). Respondents also reported how educated they were about rape on a 7-point scale (7 = very educated), if they had ever attended a presentation on rape, and if they had worked with an agency devoted to educating people about sexual assault. Finally, participants responded to seven hypothetical scenarios and indicated on a 7-point scale ranging from "certain it is not rape" (1) to "certain it is rape" (7) their certainty that rape had occurred.
After completion of the survey, participants were debriefed as to the nature of the experiment, handed brochures about rape, and provided information about rape counseling services available.
The rape scripts were coded by trained raters who were unaware of the subject's rape status. Among items coded were the number of assailants, the place the assault took place, the relationship between the victim and the assailant, the degree of aggression, the victim's resistance, the physical and emotional effects on the victim, the reactions of both the victim and assailant and the use of alcohol before the rape.
Of the 198 women whose data were analyzed, 152 were nonvictims, 22 were unacknowledged victims and 24 were acknowledged victims. Rape victims comprised 23.2% of the sample, a percentage very similar to what was found in the pilot study. It should be noted that only 10.1% of the sample responded "yes" to at least one of the three forced- sex items from the original Koss and Oros (1982) SES. The unacknowledged victims comprised 47.8% of the group of women who had been raped.
There were some differences in the actual rape experiences of acknowledged and unacknowledged victims. Of the 46 women who were raped, only one victim (acknowledged) indicated the assailant was a stranger. One woman (acknowledged victim) reported more than one assailant. Three victims (all acknowledged) reported the forced sexual experience had occurred more than once with the same man, and four victims (one unacknowledged and three acknowledged) reported it had occurred more than once with a different man. There was one significant difference on the SES items which were used to indicate rape had occurred; acknowledged victims were more likely than unacknowledged victims (62.5% versus 4.5%) to have experienced a rape involving physical restraint or attack, X~2 (1, N = 46) = 17.00, p <.001.
Acknowledged victims also differed from unacknowledged victims on a number of the ses items that did not indicate rape. acknowledged victims were more likely (75% versus 27.3%) to have experienced force with kissing and petting, x~2 (1, n = 46) = 10.48, p < .01, more likely (25% versus 0%) to have been threatened with force but intercourse did not occur, ~x2 (1, n = 46) = 6.33, p <.02, and more likely (37.5% versus 9.1%) to have been in a situation in which force was used but intercourse did not occur, ~x2 (1, n = 46) = 5.09, p < .03. it thus appears that acknowledged victims were more likely to report greater violence in both their rape and non-rape sexual experiences than unacknowledged rape victims.
No differences between non-victims, acknowledged victims and unacknowledged victims were found for age (m = 20.5), year in school (77.7% were juniors or seniors), self-reported knowledge of rape (m = 5.4), having attended a seminar on rape (64.1% had attended one), having worked for a sexual assault agency (6.1% had worked with such an agency), or knowing a rape victim (55.6% knew someone who had been raped). in addition, acknowledged and unacknowledged victims did not differ on their estimations of the certainty rape had occurred on any of the seven scenarios.
Twenty-four women left their rape script blank resulting in rape scripts from 135 nonvictims, 17 unacknowledged and 22 acknowledged victims. occasionally some items on the coding form could not be coded for a particular script because they were ambiguous or not mentioned. thus the number of usable scripts varied from item to item.
To determine interrater reliability of the coding of the scripts four pairs of raters were formed. each pair coded a different set of 20 scripts with each rater coding the scripts individually. the agreement rate based on all items on the coding form was calculated for each script and then averaged across the 20 scripts for that pair. the agreement rate for the four pairs ranged from 89.3% to 92%. agreement rates for categories of items (averaged over all the four pairs of raters) ranged from 77.5% for emotional effects on the victim to 97.5% for number of assailants. the average agreement rate was 90% for the relationship between the victim and assailant, 84.6% for the offender aggression categories, 91.4% for the victim resistance categories, 92.1% for the victim behavior categories, and 94.5% for the reaction of the attacker categories. all discrepancies on these scripts were resolved by a third independent rater. table 1 presents the percentage of times coders indicated the presence of various characteristics from the rape scripts of acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims.
percentage and number of rape scripts containing coded characteristics unacknowledged acknowledged p-value percentage n percentage n relationship of assailanta stranger 50.0 7 5.3 1 acquaintance 50.0 7 94.7 18 .01 place of attackb indoor 35.7 5 88.9 14 outdoors 64.3 9 11.1 4 .01 aggression by assailantc verbal coercion 23.5 4 31.8 7 .57 threat of attack 5.9 1 9.1 2 .71 physical restraint without attack 23.5 4 59.1 15 .03 physical attack 70.6 12 18.2 4 .001 threat or use of weapon 23.5 4 0.0 0 .02 victim resistancec screaming 35.3 6 13.6 3 .11 crying 17.6 3 31.8 7 .31 tried to leave 5.9 1 0.0 0 .25 verbal protest 29.4 5 68.2 15 .02 struggled 70.6 12 36.4 8 .04 physical traumac mild 23.5 4 4.5 1 .08 severe 11.8 2 0.0 0 .10 emotional traumac mild 41.2 7 50.0 11 .58 severe 29.4 5 27.3 6 .88 victim reactionc tells police 29.4 5 4.4 1 .03 tells friend or relative 29.4 5 18.2 4 .41 remains silent 29.4 5 27.3 6 .88 avoids contact with assailant 0.0 0 4.5 1 .37 leaves the scene 11.8 2 9.1 2 .78 other 29.4 5 22.7 5 .64 assailant reactionc threatens victim or loved one 0.0 0 4.5 1 .37 physically abuses victim 5.9 1 0.0 0 .25 verbally abuses victim 17.6 3 4.5 1 .18 leaves the scene 70.6 12 36.4 8 .04 presence of alcohold 23.5 4 57.1 12 .05
apercentages for unacknowledged group based on 14 scripts and for acknowledged group based on 19 scripts. bpercentages for unacknowledged group based on 14 scripts and for acknowledged group based on 18 scripts. cpercentages for each subcategory within major category for unacknowledged group based on 17 scripts and for acknowledged group based on 22 scripts. dpercentages for unacknowledged group based on 17 scripts and for acknowledged group based on 21 scripts.
relationship of assailant. the relationship between the assailant and the victim was coded into one of several categories: relative, steady boyfriend, date, acquaintance but no prior interaction, and stranger. due to small sample sizes for the victim groups, scripts were categorized as acquaintance or stranger scripts. the three groups differed significantly on this variable,~, x2(2, n=150) = 8.82, p < .02. as table 1 reveals, there were descriptions of both stranger and acquaintance rape in the non-victim and unacknowledged victim scripts. however, all but one of the acknowledged victims' scripts were acquaintance rape. a direct comparison of the scripts of the acknowledged and unacknowledged victims revealed that our basic hypothesis was strongly supported, that unacknowledged victims would be more likely than acknowledged victims to write a stranger, blitz rape script, x~2 (1, n=33) = 8.81 , p < .01.
place of attack. the scripts differed in where the attack took place, x~2 (2, n=145) = 9.89, p < .01. the scripts of unacknowledged victims were more likely to describe an outdoor attack (64.3%), than the scripts of acknowledged victims (11.1%) and the scripts of the non- victims (47.8%). the comparison between the two victim groups on this measure was also significant, x~2 (1, n=32) = 9.89, p < .01
offender aggression. for each of several types of aggressive behavior by the offender, coders noted if this behavior had been mentioned in the script. the percentages reported represent the percentage of each rape category group that mentioned the particular type of offender aggression. although the scripts of unacknowledged victims, acknowledged victims, and non-victim did not significantly differ in the depiction of verbal coercion or threat of physical attack, unacknowledged victims wrote rape scripts containing significantly more violence than did acknowledged victims and somewhat more violence than non-victims. although a comparison of the three groups did not indicate a significant difference in the use of physical restraint without attack, x~2(2, n=174) = 5.05, p = .08, in a direct comparison between unacknowledged and acknowledged victims, unacknowledged victims were less likely to mention physical restraint without physical attack from the assailant (23.5%) than acknowledged victims (59.1%), ~x2 (1, n=39) = 4.93, p < .03. the three groups did differ significantly in the frequency with which they mentioned physical attack, ~x2(2, n=174) = 10.97, p < .01. unacknowledged victims were more likely to mention an actual physical attack (70.6%) than acknowledged victims (18.2%) or non-victims (40.0%). the direct comparison between the two victim groups on this measure was also significant, ~x2 (1, n=39) = 10.89, p < .001. although the comparison of the three groups on the threat of or actual use of a weapon was not significant, x~2(2, n = 174) = 5.31, p < .07, once again scripts of unacknowledged victims were significantly more likely to include threat with a weapon or use of a weapon (23.5%) than the scripts of acknowledged victims (0.0%), x~2 (1, n=39) = 5.77, p < .02.
victim resistance. several types of victim resistance were coded and the percentages reported represent the percentage of each rape category group that mentioned the particular resistance behavior. as indicated in table 1, the scripts of the acknowledged and unacknowledged victims were similar in the frequency with which they described the victim as screaming, crying, or trying to leave. however, there were some differences in use of verbal protests and struggling with the assailant. a comparison of the three groups showed a tendency for the most frequent use of verbal protest in scripts of acknowledged victims (68.2%), followed by non-victims (48.9%) and unacknowledged victims (29.4%), x~2(2, n=174) = 5.84, p < .06. scripts of unacknowledged victims were significantly less likely than those of acknowledged victims to mention a verbal protest, x~2 (1, n=39) = 5.77, p < .02. the three groups did differ significantly in the frequency with which the victim struggled with the assailant, ~x2(2, n=174) = 6.41, p < .05, as did the two victim groups alone, ~x2 (1, n=39) = 4.50, p < .04. scripts of unacknowledged victims (70.6%) were more likely than those of acknowledged victims (36.4%) or non- victims (39.3%) to mention that the victim struggled with the assailant.
physical effects on the victim. the scripts were coded to indicate the degree of physical trauma mentioned (mild, severe, death). mild physical trauma included effects such as cuts, bruises or scrapes while severe physical trauma included effects such as broken bones, being unconscious or harm that required urgent medical care. no significant differences were found for these measures. of the 174 scripts coded on this measure, 10.9% reported mild physical trauma and 4.6% reported severe physical trauma. in two of the scripts of non-victims, the victim in the script died. in most of the scripts (84.5%) physical trauma was not mentioned.
emotional effects on the victim. the scripts were coded to indicate the degree of emotional trauma mentioned (mild, severe). mild emotional trauma included effects such as feeling guilty, feeling violated, crying, or regret while severe emotional trauma included effects such as withdrawal, hysteria, personality change, feeling devastated, life style changes or recurrent thoughts of the rape. no significant differences were found between the three groups on these measures. of the 174 scripts coded on these items, 46.0% indicated the victim suffered mild emotional trauma, 18.4% described severe emotional trauma, and 35.9% did not mention emotional trauma.
victim behavior following the rape. the scripts were coded to determine if the victim tells the police, tells friends or relatives, remains silent, avoids contact with the assailant, leaves the scene, or engages in some other behavior. the percentages reported for each subcategory represent the percentage of each rape category group that mentioned the behavior. analyses of the three groups together did not produce any significant differences. however, in direct comparisons of the unacknowledged and acknowledged victims, unacknowledged victims (29.4%) were more likely to contact the police than were acknowledged victims (4.4%), x~2 (1, n=39) = 4.56, p < .04. with regard to the other measures, in 20.1% of the 174 scripts the victim told a friend or relative, in 18.4% she remained silent, in 24.7% she left the scene and in 32.8% she engaged in some other behavior (typically, went to the hospital, saw a counselor, or took a shower).
assailant behavior following the rape. the assailant's behavior following the rape was coded for the following behaviors: threatened the victim or her loved ones, physically or verbally abused the victim, left the scene, or engaged in some other behavior. the percentages reported for each subcategory represent the percentage of each rape category group that mentioned the behavior. analyses of the three groups together did not produce any significant differences. however, in direct comparisons of the unacknowledged and acknowledged victims, unacknowledged victims were more likely (70.6%) to indicate that the assailant immediately left the scene than were acknowledged victims (35.4%), x~2 (1, n=39) = 4.50, p < .04.
presence of alcohol. the scripts were coded to determine if the victim, the assailant, or both used alcohol. the percentages reported for each subcategory represent the percentage of each rape category group that mentioned some use of alcohol, regardless of who used it. analysis of the three groups together did not produce any significant differences. however, acknowledged victims were more likely to mention alcohol in their scripts (57.1%) than were unacknowledged victims (23.5%), x~2(1, n=38) = 4.35, p < .05.
finally, it should be noted that on almost all aspects of the rape scripts, the percentage of coded characteristics for non-victims' scripts were between those of acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims. it is likely that this group of non-victims contains a mixture of potential unacknowledged victims (who wrote stranger rape scripts, n=42) and potential acknowledged victims (who wrote acquaintance rape scripts, n=75).
In the present study, the percentage of women who had experienced forced sexual intercourse was 23.2%. this percentage was greater than that obtained by koss (1985) and is due to the fact that we added four questions to koss and oros' (1982) original scale to categorize women as rape victims. when our participants are classified as rape victims using koss' original three questions the percentage was 10.1%, which is similar to the 12.7% of rape victims found by koss (1985). the percentage of victims in our study who were unacknowledged victims was 47.8%, a figure that is comparable to the 43% of unacknowledged victims in koss' (1985) study. all but one of the rape victims in our study was raped by an acquaintance.
the results of our study support our hypothesis that unacknowledged victims would be more likely to write scripts describing blitz or stranger rape than acknowledged victims. all but one of the scripts of the acknowledged victims described the assailant as an acquaintance while the scripts of unacknowledged victims were evenly divided between stranger and acquaintance rapes. furthermore, the details of the scripts of the unacknowledged victims tended to fit the blitz rape situation. compared to acknowledged victims, unacknowledged victims were more likely to say the rape occurred outdoors, more likely to mention physical attack and use or threat of use of weapons, less likely to say the victim used verbal protest but more likely to say she struggled with the assailant, more likely to mention the victim reported the rape to the police and that the assailant left the scene, and less likely to mention the presence of alcohol.
the two groups may have differed in the details of the scripts simply because unacknowledged victims wrote more stranger rape scripts. a comparison of scripts depicting a stranger and those depicting an acquaintance as the assailant revealed that across all participants, scripts with a stranger were more likely to describe an outdoor scene, less restraint without attack and more physical attack and use of weapons, less verbal protest by the victim, more mild and severe physical trauma to the victim, greater likelihood of telling the police and friends and less likelihood of remaining silent, more physical abuse by the assailant and a greater chance of the assailant leaving the scene, and less involvement of alcohol. however, a comparison of the acquaintance and stranger scripts of the unacknowledged victims found no differences in regards to assailant aggression, victims' physical and emotional trauma, or assailant reaction following the rape although stranger scripts were more likely to depict an outdoor attack and less likely to have the victim use verbal protest or remain silent. on the other hand, a comparison between nonvictims' stranger and acquaintance scripts revealed that in stranger scripts the rape was much more likely to occur outdoors, assailants were more likely to threaten to use or use physical attack, physical restraint and weapons, victims were less likely to use verbal protests and remain silent, more likely to suffer severe physical trauma, and more likely to tell police or friends. in other words, stranger and acquaintance scripts were more alike for unacknowledged victims than for nonvictims. thus the differences in the details of the acknowledged and unacknowledged victims' scripts does not appear to be due solely to the relationship between the assailant and the victim in the scripts.
another possible explanation for the lower level of violence in acknowledged victims' scripts is that these victims were simply writing a description about their own non-consensual sexual experience which they did, in fact, label as rape, whereas unacknowledged victims were describing a more general perception of rape because in their perspective, they did not have a rape experience upon which to base a script. this explanation does not seem likely, however. we asked the acknowledged victims to indicate the extent to which their description of rape matched their own rape experience on a scale ranging from 1 (completely different) to 7 (exactly the same). only 30.4% indicated it was "exactly the same," the mean response was 4.9, and some participants responded at each point along the scale. also, in a comparison with unacknowledged victims on actual sexual experience, acknowledged victims reported more force by a male in kissing and petting, more threatened or actual use of force by the male in an unsuccessful attempt to have intercourse, and more force in a successful attempt at intercourse when the women did not want it. these differences in experiences are paradoxical in that acknowledged victims' scripts described less force than the unacknowledged victims' scripts, while their life experiences contained more force. thus, the scripts of acknowledged victims are not necessarily mirror-images of their own sexual or rape experiences.
based on the results of the demographic survey the differences in the rape scripts between acknowledged and unacknowledged victims do not appear to be due to differences in their demographic characteristics assessed in this study. there were no differences in age, year in school, self-reported knowledge about rape, having attended a seminar on rape, working with rape victims, or knowing a rape victim nor did they differ in their certainty about what constituted rape in the seven hypothetical scenarios.
a final issue that warrants attention is the finding that 50% of the unacknowledged victims wrote acquaintance scripts. even though they had an experience of forced sexual intercourse with an acquaintance and wrote a script depicting acquaintance rape, these women still did not acknowledge that they had been raped. this suggests that their inability to recognize their experience as rape is dependent on more than just the nature of the relationship between the assailant and the victim. other characteristics of the rape script or characteristics of the individuals may also be involved in the decision to label a sexual experience as rape. one important variable may be the level of force used in the actual rape. on a number of the ses items we found differences between unacknowledged and acknowledged rape victims, with fewer unacknowledged victims reporting sexual experiences involving force than acknowledged victims. yet, the unacknowledged victims were more likely to include physical attack in their rape scripts. thus, it may be that lack of an actual physical attack, contained in their rape scripts but not present in their actual rape experience, leads these unacknowledged victims to not regard their experience as rape. this finding is consistent with the results of research by ryan (1988), bourque (1989) and parrot (1991), who have argued that level of force used in the sexual encounter may be one of the most important variables in determining whether the experience is considered rape.
although our results offer support for the importance of rape scripts in determining whether rape victims label their experience as rape, there are at least two caveats. first, out data are purely correlational. while acknowledged and unacknowledged victims differed in their rape scripts, we cannot be sure it is the difference in scripts that caused differences in acknowledgment. second, our sample was composed almost exclusively of acquaintance rape victims. we would be surprised to find many women who were victims of a stranger rape who did not acknowledge it.
in summary, our data suggest that unacknowledged rape victims, compared to acknowledged rape victims, are more likely to have rape scripts in which the assailant is a stranger, and in which the assailant, whether stranger or acquaintance, uses a high level of force. in addition, unacknowledged victims' own rape and non-rape sexual experiences were likely to have involved less force when compared to acknowledged victims. in other words, the unacknowledged rape victim is likely to be a woman who has not encountered force in sexual relations and has a script of rape which involves considerable force.
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portions of this article were presented at the 100th annual convention of the american psychological association, washington, dc, august 16, 1990.
we wish to thank sarah baker, paula beeghly, kimberly bradley, gina feria, kathryn hastings, hannah hinely, anne mccarthy, elaine schoka, julie stuckey, and megan sullivan, members of our undergraduate research team, who helped design the research and collect the data.
requests for reprints should be sent to arnold s. kahn, department of psychology, james madison university, harrisonburg, va 22807.
1it should be noted that one form of acquaintance rape, marital rape, may involve a high degree of force and violence (koss, dinero, seibel, & cox, 1988; russell, 1982).
2 when data were collected in classrooms, male students were given a male version of the ses. these data are not reported in this paper.
3 separate analyses for ses first and script first revealed that the only differences in the two sets of analyses were on the type of relationship, the use of verbal protest, screaming, and struggling by the victim, and whether the victim told the police. for the latter two items, the patterns were the same but were significant in one case but not the other. when the ses was first, both acknowledged and unacknowledged victims wrote more acquaintance scripts but when the script was first, unacknowledged victims wrote more stranger scripts than acquaintance scripts. the concern that the ses first might alter the scripts of the acknowledged victims was not supported. when the ses was first, about half of both groups said the victim protested verbally but this item decreased in frequency for the unacknowledged group and increased in frequency for the acknowledged group when the script was first. when the ses was first, about 10% of both groups said the victim screamed but when the script was first, the unacknowledged group reported more of this behavior. because of the few differences and the small cell frequencies resulting from these analyses, no further use was made of these analyses.