Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Chair/Advisor

Mazer, Joseph P

Committee Member

Sanderson, James

Committee Member

Ash, Erin

Committee Member

Winslow, Sarah


This thesis explored the effects of race and athlete status on the public’s perceptions of guilt in sexual assault cases. It investigated how race and athlete status of a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman affected the perceived believability of the accuser and the perceived severity of the crime. It also explored the correlation between perceived guilt and rape myth acceptance. The results of this thesis did not directly support the hypotheses but hypothesis 4 was significant in suggesting that participants who gave any of the accused a lower guilt rating had higher levels of rape myth acceptance. The thesis also revealed trends in participant hesitance to rate any of the accused as guilty or not, with most benefit of the doubt going toward the accused and not the accuser. Reasons for the non-significant results such as media coverage and athletic department involvement were explored.



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