Rebecca Vilk



Document Type



Stereotypes may affect perceptions of rape victims in the courtroom and could possibly lead to unjust trials. Because rape victims who are perceived as counter-stereotypical women are often judged more harshly than stereotypical women and women who have tattoos are stereotyped as having negative characteristics, we tested whether having tattoos would impact the characteristics attributed to victims of rape. Using a mock-juror paradigm, we experimentally examined how a rape victim’s tattoo would impact perceptions of the victim and trial judgments. Participants read a fictional rape trial summary, viewed the alleged victim (with a flower, script, or no tattoo), rendered and explained their verdict, and rated the victim on a number of qualities (e.g., credibility, blameworthiness). We hypothesized that participants would render fewer guilty verdicts, attribute fewer positive qualities, and have less sympathy when the victim had a tattoo compared to no tattoo. Results ran contrary to these predictions; participants were more likely to render a guilty verdict, rated the victim as more credible, blamed her less, and had more sympathy for her when the victim had a flower tattoo compared to no tattoo. Our results supported our prediction that women would be more likely to render a guilty verdict than men. Significant results from this study could help bring justice to victims of rape by making them aware of potential jury biases.



Thesis Comittee

Nesa Wasarhaley (Thesis Director)

Teresa King

Jonathan Holmes

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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