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Rape Myth Beliefs and Prejudiced Instructions: Effects on Decisions of Guilt in a Case of Date Rape

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2006 Pages: 75-80
Jacqueline M. Gray
Date Published
February 2006
6 pages
This study examined the effects on individual juror decisions in "date rape" cases when a judge's summing-up statements reflected a bias toward either pro-rape or anti-rape myths.
Mock jurors who received judicial statements that reflected pro-rape myths were significantly more likely to find the defendant innocent than those receiving biased anti-rape myths, regardless of the juror's own previous personal views regarding date rape issues; however, jurors who held personal pro-rape myths were more confident in their verdicts of innocence. Jurors who received judicial instructions with an anti-rape bias were more likely to find the defendant guilty, regardless of previous personal view of date rape issues; within this group, women were more sure than men that the male defendant was guilty. These findings suggest that judges should compose their jury instructions so as to exclude any suggestion of support for pro-rape or anti-rape myths. The study involved a convenience sample of 90 men and 90 women students at a British university. All participants completed the Rape Myth Acceptance scale (Burt, 1980), which has been found to produce a reliable measure of an individual's rape myth beliefs. All participants were read a scenario that portrayed a date rape, followed by guidance on the determination of guilt or innocence that was either neutral or reflective of a pro-rape or anti-rape bias. 1 table, 8 references, and appended descriptions of the date rape scenario and the three types of jury instructions