Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Nichea Spillane


Introduction: Rates of sexual violence on college campuses are highest among individuals who identify as sexual minorities. However, bystander intervention programs on campuses (programs aimed at targeting individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge about sexual violence to increase engagement in intervention behaviors) are not inclusive of sexual minority experiences. That is, bystander intervention programs that have been evaluated for efficacy appear not to include sexual violence experiences of sexual minorities nor are program outcomes assessed among sexual minority populations. This lack of inclusivity is important as it is likely that many of the barriers to bystander intervention (e.g., situational or environmental factors) may be worsened by biases against sexual minority populations. However, no research to date has examined how such factors influence bystanders’ assessment of a sexual violence situation, particularly among sexual minority relationship type dyads (e.g., lesbian, gay). Thus, the purpose of the present study was to examine factors (i.e., relationship type, bystander intentions, heteronormative attitudes, rape beliefs, alcohol beliefs and behaviors) impacting bystanders’ assignment of responsibility and consent in a sexual violence vignette. Methods: Participants (N = 300) had a mean age of 19.69 years, were undergraduate students, and primarily self-identified as women (77.7%) and heterosexual (84.0%). Participants completed a 30-40-minute online survey and were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions where they read a sexual violence vignette depicting a lesbian (n = 100), gay (n = 96), or heterosexual (n = 104) relationship type dyad; they then completed a series of survey items about consent and responsibility, and questionnaires regarding bystander intentions, heteronormative attitudes, rape attitudes, and alcohol beliefs and behaviors. Results: Overall, participants rated the sexual violence situation in the vignettes as not consensual. Logistic regression analysis revealed no significant associations between experimental condition and rating of consent, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed no significant difference in the rating of consent scores across conditions. Next, paired samples t-tests revealed that, for all three relationship type dyad conditions, participants assigned significantly greater responsibility to the perpetrator compared to the victim. However, two one-way ANOVAs revealed that those who read the heterosexual vignette assigned significantly more responsibility to the perpetrator and significantly less responsibility to the victim, compared to those who read the lesbian and gay vignettes. Finally, hypothesized predictors (i.e., bystander intentions, heteronormative attitudes, rape beliefs, alcohol beliefs and behaviors, responsibility ratings, and consent ratings) were entered into a structural regression model to establish a baseline causal model; however, the model did not reach convergence. Therefore, as the extant literature indicates that victims are frequently blamed for their sexual violence victimization and perpetrators are often attributed less responsibility, a series of mediation analyses were conducted to examine the indirect effect of Victim Responsibility and/or Perpetrator Responsibility on the associations between hypothesized predictor variables and Consent Rating. Based on the underlying theory of the proposed study, we examined correlations between independent variables (i.e., bystander attitudes, heteronormative attitudes, rape myth acceptance, alcohol-related problems) and selected those that correlated significantly with the mediator(s) and outcome variables to enter into our mediation analyses. Within the full sample and those who read the lesbian vignette, results revealed that the association between endorsing greater heteronormative attitudes and rating the vignettes as more consensual was mediated by assigning greater responsibility to the victim. Meanwhile, for the participants assigned to the heterosexual vignette condition, this association was mediated by assigning greater victim responsibility and assigning less perpetrator responsibility. For participants assigned to the heterosexual vignette condition, greater rape myth acceptance was significantly associated with rating the vignette as more consensual and this association was mediated by assigning less responsibility to the perpetrator; among the full sample this relationship was mediated by assigning greater victim responsibility. Interestingly, no predictor variables were significantly associated with either mediator variable among those who read the gay vignette. Conclusions: These findings underscore the need for continued research investigating barriers to bystander intervention and understanding consent and responsibility, with the goal of creating sexual violence bystander intervention programs for campuses that are inclusive of sexual minority populations.



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