Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Suzanne Lease

Committee Member

Ashley Batastini

Committee Member

Leigh Harrell-Williams

Committee Member

Rosie Phillips Davis

Committee Member

Mike Vitacco


The successful prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence is notoriously difficult. As societal reliance on technology and online communications increases, digital evidence is becoming a common component in sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. To date, empirical research on digital evidence used in sexual assault trials is limited, but social media evidence may meet the seemingly insurmountable burden of proof necessary to prove a “real” sexual assault took place. However, the interpretation of such evidence is ultimately filtered through one’s cultural biases and stereotypes. Thus, it is important to investigate how rape supportive and sexist ideologies may impact the perceptions of social media evidence presented in court. Using a sample of 277 participants, the present study used a between-subjects, experimental design to investigate whether blame attributed to the complainant (i.e., the sexual assault survivor) and defendant (i.e., the alleged perpetrator) varied depending on the source of evidence (i.e., who posted the digital evidence). The potential moderating effects of rape myth acceptance (RMA), benevolent sexism (BS), and hostile sexism (HS) were also examined. Contrary to hypotheses, findings suggest that participants did not ascribe more blame to the complainant or defendant based on the source of evidence, and that RMA, BS, and HS were not significant moderators although they were predictors of blame. Significant main effects, implications, and limitations of the present study are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access