Rape and sexual assault are common problems on college campuses. This paper draws on data from 129 surveys with students at a small liberal arts college to explore the construction of “victimhood” in such cases. In addition, interviews were held with local therapists. Two different surveys were distributed to students, each containing a slightly different vignette about an assault. The surveys asked questions relating to definitions of the word victim and blame. Each survey featured a vignette where the victim and offender were not clearly defined. One concluded that the victim had sexual relations without her consent, and the other did not determine she had sexual relations, however, she still obtained injuries. The surveys were passed out to two upper level sociology classes and three introductory to sociology classes. 129 surveys were returned. The researcher explored differences in responses by gender and vignette. A hypothesis about the relationship between perceptions of a just world and constructions of victimhood was also explored. The results suggest that participants closely identify with the portrayal of the “ideal victim.” They also see victims are created by the action imposed upon them. In addition, the researcher looked at the how just world scores correlated with the assignment of blame and empathy. Finally, overall themes of blame and justice were considered in the construction of victimhood.


Nurse, Anne


Sociology and Anthropology


Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Psychology and Interaction


victim, sexual assault, perception

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2014 Brianna G. Tarpey