Beliefs about Sexual Assault in India and Britain are Explained by Attitudes Toward Women and Hostile Sexism
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As many as one in five women worldwide will be sexually assaulted over the course of her lifetime (United Nations 2008), yet myths that downplay the prevalence and severity of sexual assault are still widely accepted. Are myths about sexual assault (rape myths) more likely to be accepted in cultures that endorse more traditional gender roles and attitudes toward women? To explore the relationships among rape myth acceptance, attitudes toward women, and hostile and benevolent sexism, data were collected from 112 Indian and 117 British adults, samples from two cultures differing widely in their gender role traditionalism. Analyses confirmed a cultural difference in rape myth acceptance, with the more traditional culture, India, accepting myths to a greater extent than the more egalitarian culture, Britain. Indian participants' greater rape myth acceptance was explained by their more traditional gender role attitudes and hostile sexism. We discuss ways in which promoting gender egalitarianism may help to break down negative beliefs and reduce the stigma surrounding sexual assault, especially in India, for example through interventions which increase exposure to women in less traditional roles (e.g., those in positions of power).
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