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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Sattler, David N.

Second Advisor

Devenport, Jennifer

Third Advisor

Williams, Keith C.


The Black Lives Matter movement has increased public awareness concerning discriminatory experiences Black people may experience in interactions with police in the United States. Despite this renewed public consciousness, there is a lacuna of empirical research investigating Black women’s unique experiences of prejudice and how public perceptions shape them. Research is needed to understand factors that influence perceptions of women who experience discriminatory treatment by police and barriers that may hinder social change. The current study investigated how a woman’s racial identity (Black, White), demeanor (i.e., attitude directed towards the officer; respectful, confrontational), and the severity of the force used against her by the police officer (injured, fatal) influence participants’ evaluations of blame and perceptions of discrimination for both the woman and officer. It was expected that when the female victim treated the officer respectfully but was fatally wounded, participants would elicit less victim blame, more officer blame, and perceive that the victim experienced more gender discrimination, but only when the woman was also White. However, when the female victim is Black, perceptions of the victim’s blameworthiness and racial discrimination will be high, and officer blame and gender discrimination will be lower regardless of her demeanor and the severity of the force used against her. In addition, ethnic identity and authoritarianism were tested as moderators. The participants were 203 individuals across the United States who were recruited using an online crowdsourcing platform, MTurk. Participants read a news story depicting an incident between a woman and a police officer during a routine traffic stop. They then answered questions pertaining to their opinions of the victim and the officer. Utilizing a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA), the results showed main effects of severity of force and victim race, where participants perceived more excessive police use of force towards the fatally wounded victim and the Black woman. In order to test whether ethnic identity and authoritarianism moderated the effect of victim race, demeanor, and severity of force on each outcome variable, eight multiple linear regressions were conducted. The results indicate that valuing one’s ethnic identity influenced participants’ perceptions of gender discrimination for the White victim, such that individuals higher in ethnic identity perceived the respectful White victim as experiencing less gender discrimination when she was killed than when she was injured. Interestingly, valuing one’s ethnic identity did not significantly moderate the effect of demeanor and severity of force on participants’ perceptions of gender discrimination for the Black victim. Ethnic identity and authoritarianism may generally relate to perceptions of excessive force, with those who scored higher on these measures being more likely to evaluate the victim negatively. This study is one of the first to empirically investigate factors that may contribute to negative perceptions of women who have been subjected to excessive police use of force. These findings could have implications for legal outcomes for women who are victims of intersectional violence and police officers.




Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

African American women--Abuse of--United States; African American women--United States--Social conditions; Discrimination in law enforcement--United States; Police brutality--United States; Black lives matter movement

Geographic Coverage

United States




masters theses




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