• Bias in a Just World? Sexual Prejudice, Gender Self-Esteem, and Intimate Partner Violence

      Mahoy, Crystal D. (2014-03-18)
      Each year, approximately 835,000 men and 1.3 million women are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV; American Bar Association, n.d). Although the prevalence of same-sex intimate partner violence (IPV) is approximately the same as IPV in heterosexual couples (Alexander, 2002), fewer studies have examined perceptions of IPV in same-sex couples or of IPV perpetrated against heterosexual men compared to heterosexual women. In the current study, Just World Theory (Lerner & Miller, 1978) is used as a framework for understanding factors associated with perceptions of heterosexual and same-sex IPV, including sexual prejudice and gender self-esteem. Perceptions of IPV were examined in a sample of 251 male and female undergraduate students from Indiana State University. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four vignette conditions in which the gender of the perpetrator and victim were manipulated, resulting in two heterosexual and two same-sex conditions. Participants then completed several self-report measures, including the Collective Self-Esteem Scale (assesses self-esteem related to gender) and the Modern Homonegativity Scale (assesses sexual prejudice). Participants also completed a measure of social desirability and a measure assessing attributions of blame in the IPV scenario. Results indicated that men and women did not differ significantly in their blame of perpetrators and victims as a function of target character gender or sexual orientation. Additionally, gender self-esteem was not related to blame of victims and sexual prejudice was related to victim responsibility for women but not for men. Sexual prejudice and gender self-esteem were not significantly correlated for men or women. Results emphasize the importance of professionals’awareness of their biases and potential sexual prejudice when working with victims and perpetrators of IPV, particularly gay men and lesbians. Results also highlight the difficulty that heterosexual and gay men and lesbians likely have in obtaining support following IPV victimization. Although results do not appear to provide support for the Just World Theory construct of position identification, it is possible that other factors such as sexual prejudice outweighed the need for women to protect their potential position as a victim.