Race impacts perceptions of crimes, perpetrators, and victims. Although statutory rape generally receives little empirical or media attention, it has important implications for victims and offenders across the United States and appears to be enforced in a haphazard way. This study used a between-subjects experimental survey design at two universities (n = 1,370) to assess the impact of respondent race, perpetrator race, and victim race on attitudes toward statutory rape. Results of a repeated measures analysis of variance indicated that respondents viewed both White victims and their perpetrators as bad, blameworthy, deserving of punishment, harmed, and likely to commit crime in the future, judgments suggesting that the respondents take this sexual activity seriously. In contrast, analyses revealed that respondents were significantly less concerned about Black victims than White victims. Consistent with the liberation hypothesis, these differences in attitudes may contribute to the law being enforced inconsistently, providing differential access to justice based on a variable that is not legally relevant.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Health(social science)