Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


The purpose of this study was to examine the descriptors used to describe victims and alleged perpetrators in recent articles about rape trials and sexual assault trials in popular U.S. magazines to determine whether they were significantly different in connotative meaning as perceived by the respondents. Forty-four articles were examined for descriptors. The ten most commonly used descriptors for the victims and the ten most commonly used descriptors for the alleged perpetrators were then rated on Osgood's semantic differential by 107 undergraduates from the University of Rhode Island. Results showed that descriptors for the victims and alleged perpetrators were found to be significantly different on the three semantic factors of evaluation, potency, and activity. Descriptors used to describe the victims were judged as connoting less favorability, less potency, and less activity than those used to describe the alleged perpetrators. These words may affect the way in which victims and perpetrators are perceived by their readers.



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