Research Article: An experimental examination of alcohol consumption, alcohol expectancy, and self‐blame on willingness to report a hypothetical rape

Date Published: December 15, 2017

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Author(s): Heather D. Flowe, John Maltby.


This study experimentally examined the role of victim alcohol intoxication, and self‐blame in perceiving and reporting rape to the police using a hypothetical interactive rape scenario. Participants (N = 79) were randomly assigned to consume alcohol (mean BAC = 0.07%) or tonic water before they engaged in the scenario. Alcohol expectancy was manipulated, and participant beliefs about the beverage they thought they had consumed and their feelings of intoxication were measured. Alcohol consumption and expectancy did not affect the likelihood that the nonconsensual intercourse depicted in the scenario was perceived and would be reported as rape. Participants with higher levels of self‐blame were less likely to say they would report the hypothetical rape. Self‐blame levels were higher for participants who believed they had consumed alcohol, and were associated with increased feelings of intoxication. The implications are discussed.

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Studies find that between 30% and 74% of sexual violence victims were alcohol‐intoxicated during the crime (e.g., Abbey, 2002; Horvarth & Brown, 2006; Koss & Dinero, 1989; Palmer, Flowe, Takarangi, & Humphries, 2013; Testa & Livingston, 2000). According to victim surveys and interviews, people who were alcohol‐intoxicated during the assault rather than sober are less likely to report rape to the police (Clay‐Warner & Burt, 2005; Finkelson & Oswalt, 1995; Resnick et al., 2000; Sawtell, 2009; Wolitzky‐Taylor et al., 2011).

When considered together in the same model, only self‐blame significantly predicted rape reporting, whereas alcohol consumption, expectancy and alcohol beliefs did not. Further, women who believed that they had consumed alcohol rather than to tonic water blamed themselves more for the rape, and women were more likely to blame themselves for the assault the more intoxicated they felt. Therefore, the results suggest alcohol consumption contributes to self‐blame in rape, and women who blame themselves may not be as likely to report. These findings will now be discussed.

The author has no conflicts of interest in relation to the research reported in this manuscript.




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