The Effects of Gender Identity and Judicial Instructions on Victim Blaming, Crime Severity Ratings, and Verdicts in Sexual Assault Trials

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The purpose of this study was to conduct a simulated sexual assault trial where the researchers varied the victim’s gender identity (cis-male, cis-female, transgender male, transgender female) to determine what impact it might have on participants’ blaming attitudes toward the victim, perceptions of crime severity, and jury verdicts in a sexual assault trial. Another point of interest was to examine how the gender of the participant might interact with the gender identity to produce differences in victim attitudes and jury decisions. In a follow-up to the study researchers adjusted the trial scripts, and included an additional manipulation of a judge’s instructions to the jury that instructed jurors to ignore the gender identity of the victim. This was done to determine if it is possible to increase guilty verdict rates for the transgender victims of sexual assault, and create differences in attitudes towards victims, crime severity, and verdicts decisions. The study utilized a between subjects factorial design. Results and future policy implications for judicial procedures will also be discussed.
Presented at the American Society of Criminology Conference, Philadelphia, PA, on November 17, 2017.
Gender identity, Judgments, Blaming the victim, Rape, Trials