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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Experimental Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Delker, Brianna C.

Second Advisor

Czopp, Alex

Third Advisor

Lemm, Kristi M., 1971-


Among college students who experience rape, on average, 60% are unacknowledged rape victims, meaning they do not label their sexual violence experiences as rape. Perhaps this is due to unacknowledged rape victims internalizing mainstream cultural values that normalize and stigmatize experiences of sexual violence. This survey and vignette-based study investigated the relationship between rape acknowledgment status, labels, and perceptions of rape. Female-identifying college students (N = 214) with a history of rape reported perceptions and labels of their experiences of rape and a vignette depicting rape. It was hypothesized that unacknowledged rape victims would be more likely to acknowledge their experiences of rape when using a Likert response format compared to a multi-categorical response format, which findings supported. Additionally, it was hypothesized that unacknowledged rape victims (vs. acknowledged rape victims) would be less likely to view a vignette depicting rape as rape, which findings did not support. Results indicated that rape culture and cultural stigma were more influential when labeling and perceiving one’s own experience of rape compared to others’ experiences. Furthermore, the findings highlight that rape acknowledgment status is fluid and should be measured on a continuum. This study began to establish how cultural stigma is central to perceptions of rape while expanding the literature on labels acknowledged, and unacknowledged rape victims used to describe experiences of rape (i.e., personal experiences and others’ experiences).




Rape acknowledgment status, sexual violence, perceptions, labels


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Rape victims--Northwest, Pacific--Psychology; Victims of crimes surveys--Northwest, Pacific; Stigma (Social psychology)

Geographic Coverage

Northwest, Pacific




Academic theses




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