Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Past research has indicated that victim blaming in cases of sexual assault is a problem in today’s society (Bieneck & Krahe, 2011). The present study examined how natural reactions to trauma influence how much blame is assigned to the victim in situations of sexual assault and natural disaster. This study included 293 college students that attended a western Kansas university, with an average age of 19.71. Participants read a short scenario depicting either a victim of sexual assault or a victim of natural disaster, with the victim responding to the traumatic event by either freezing or fainting. They were then asked to rate how much the victim in these scenarios is to blame and complete the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance scale. Results showed that victims of sexual assault were assigned more blame that victims of natural disaster. The victim’s reaction, both in the freeze and faint conditions, was also rated as being more normal in the natural disaster scenarios compared to the sexual assault scenarios. These results support that there needs to be a greater emphasis put on education about sexual assault in general and typical immediate neurological reactions to trauma, especially in cases of sexual assault.

Key words: sexual assault, rape, neurological reactions to trauma, victim blaming


Dr. Carol Patrick

Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type



© 2019 Ashley Nielsen


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