Although male rape is being reported more often, the majority of rape victims are still women. In 2004, Canadian statistics indicated that of all sexual assault incidents, 86% were reported by women. However, only 6% of the assaults are in fact reported. An important factor that discourages rape victims from reporting are the prevalence of rape myths - the false cultural beliefs that serve the purpose of shifting the blame from perpetrators to victims. Despite this, the current impact of rape myths acceptance (RMA) is unclear and there is not updated information on the demographic, attitudinal or behavioural factors associated with RMA. In order to address this gap, this study conducted a meta-analytic review of RMA across published research to examine not only whether RMA was associated with other variables, but also the strength and direction of these associations.
A systematic bibliographic search was undertaken to locate studies since 1997 that include at least one measure of RMA and associations of this measure with demographic, behavioural, or attitudinal variables. The review was restricted to studies conducted in United States and Canada, as the notion of rape and rape myths have considerable cross-cultural variations. In experimental studies, only the pre-intervention measures were used. Additionally, only studies of RMA toward rape of adult women were included. The search located 158 studies from peer-reviewed journals and 78 dissertations in electronic databases. Thirty-seven studies reporting on these associations were reviewed by two coders and their results combined via the calculation of standardized effect sizes. Homogeneity of effect sizes across studies and the degree of their heterogeneity was assessed.
Despite substantial variability in the type of samples and RMA measures, high RMA levels were consistently and significantly associated with a large number of demographic, behavioural, and attitudinal indicators. These associations, which were based on data from 11, 487 individuals, were of a medium to large size, which would be recognized by individuals in their daily interactions. Men displayed significantly higher RMA than women despite differences in age or occupation. RMA was also strongly associated with hostile attitudes and behaviours towards women; thus supporting the feminist' premise that sexism perpetuates RMA. Results also show a significant association between RMA and racism, heterosexism, and classism. Conversely, factors such as education, positive racial identity, and several sexually “promiscuous” behaviours were associated with lower RMA
Our findings suggest that rape prevention programs must be broadened to incorporate strategies that address other oppressive beliefs concurrent with RMA. The moderating role of sexually promiscuous behaviours also needs to be examined to identify elements of these behaviours that are part of a healthy sexuality. A renewed awareness of how RMA shapes the societal perception of rape will reduce also victims' re-victimization. Implications regarding the construct validity of RMA measures and directions of future research are also discussed. Despite all efforts rape is still a pervasive human rights and public health concern; therefore, the findings of this meta-analysis are of extreme relevance to social work practice and education