The role of egocentric networks in the formation of rape myth acceptance

Jordan Nelon, Megan Patterson, Tyler Prochnow, Whitney Garney, Carly McCord


Introduction: Rape myths are defined as prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, victims, and rapists. False beliefs about rape may exacerbate the problem of experiencing sexual assault and perpetration, while also serving as a deterrent for reporting rape or lead to a survivor’s isolation from loved ones. This research aimed to understand the differences across subtypes of rape myths (e.g., she asked for it, he didn’t mean it, it wasn’t rape, and she lied) and how personal relationships impact college student’s perception of myths. Methods: 697 students completed surveys regarding demographics, personal experiences with violence, RMA, and nominated the five people with whom they have the strongest relationship. Name interpreter questions about each alter nominated included gender, race, experiences of violence, and two hypothetical situations (if the alters would believe the ego if they were raped, if the alter would blame the ego if they were raped). The Illinois RMA Scale is scored from 0-120, with a higher score indicating rejection of rape myths. The average scores (1-5) for subtypes were calculated so that comparison across groups could occur. Homophily variables were calculated for gender, race, and experiencing sexual, physical, or emotional abuse; while, compositional variables were created on the two hypothetical questions. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted to examine variables to predict acceptance of the four subtypes of rape myths. Results: Egocentric network variables added 3.3% - 7.3% of explained variance in predicting RMA score. Factors that were positively associated with RMA scores across all types included being a female (ß-values range .257-.835, p-values <.001) and having individuals in their network that wouldn’t blame their behaviors (ß-values range .004- .009, p-values <.001). For the subtype “she lied,” nodes in the network who had experienced physical abuse decreased RMA scores (ß=-.006, p-value=.036), indicating a greater acceptance of this myth; while having someone who experienced emotional abuse increased RMA scores (ß=.005, p-value=.009). Additionally, lowerclassmen had a lower RMA score for the “wasn’t rape” subtype (ß-value range -.100 to -.119, p-value ranges .025-.042). Discussion: The least believed myth was the “it wasn’t rape,” while “women lie” was the most believed. It’s possible that through sexual violence education, the “grey areas” of rape myth definitions have been removed, yet we should add additional education on fabricated stories. Gender composition of ego networks do not influence an individual’s RMA, even though the gender of the ego has the most significant impact on score. If a network included people who have experienced emotional abuse and will not blame you the go if raped, then they were more likely to reject myths; whereas, those who believe the ego increased the likelihood of accepting myths. Thus, it is not enough to have people that believe an individual, they need to not blame behaviors. RMA was not impacted if the individual had experienced any sort of abuse, but was if their close connections had. Individuals may doubt personal experience or self-blame, but other’s experiences may act as a catalyst to change beliefs about rape myths.



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