Public perceptions of rape victimisation: When sexual orientation matters.

Dr James Mccue1, Dr Natalie Gately1, Ms Breanna Mulrennan1

1Edith Cowan University, ,

Rape crimes are often under-reported and make a significant contribution to the dark figure of crime. It is well-established that a victim’s feelings of embarrassment and shame, in addition to fears they will not be believed, contribute to a reluctance to report the crime. Most research has investigated the issue from a heteronormative perspective. Therefore, this study presented vignettes and a survey to the Australian public (N = 423). The study examined the influence of sexual orientation and public acceptance of rape stereotypes on their perceptions of the rape scenario including: victim blameworthiness and believability; perpetrator responsibility and punishment; and the likelihood of the victim reporting the crime. The findings indicated sexual orientation significantly influenced the perceived likelihood of the victim reporting the crime to police and their perceived believability. The endorsement of rape stereotypes significantly influenced public perceptions of victim blameworthiness, and the preferred punishment for the perpetrator. Gender stereotypes, confusion regarding the provision of consent, and fear of homophobic or queer shaming reactions were all reported as barriers to reporting. Implications for further research, government policies, and raising community awareness will be presented.


Dr James McCue is a researcher, lecturer, and higher degrees supervisor in Criminology and Psychology at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. His research experience and interests includes public perceptions of crime (including different crime types and the minimum age of criminal responsibility), perceptions of the vicarious criminal responsibility of parents, youth offending, and diversionary courts. James is a Clinical Psychologist and Forensic Psychologist (Registrar) who also works in private practice conducting forensic assessments for Court, as well as treating both clinical and forensic issues (such as depression, anxiety, substance use, post-traumatic stress, anger problems, and sexual deviance). He has previous experience practicing as a psychologist in government sectors including Department of Justice, WA Police, and Child Protection.


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