Document Type



Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread issue that disproportionately affects women with mental illness. Yet, there is a lack of research on the effects of mental illness stigma on legal perceptions of women with mental illness in IPV cases. The present study experimentally investigated mock jurors’ perceptions of IPV cases where the victim has a mental illness and examined the role stigmatization of mental illness played in these perceptions. MTurk participants (N = 191) first completed attitude questionnaires that measured their attitudes towards mental illness and their beliefs about domestic violence. In the second part of the study, participants were randomly assigned to read one of four IPV (criminal assault) mock trial summaries in which the victim’s condition was manipulated (i.e., eating disorder, major depressive disorder, fibromyalgia, or no stated illness). Participants individually provided their verdict and rated their perceptions of the victim and defendant (e.g., credibility and blame). Overall, negative perceptions of mental illness predicted negative perceptions of victims across all conditions (e.g., depression stigma predicted victim blame). Whereas perceptions of mental illness as normal predicted more favorable perceptions of the victim (e.g., increase in pity for the victim). Perceptions of depression as normal predicted a decrease in guilty verdicts across the conditions. Furthermore, there was a significant interaction between depression stigma and victim health on both victim blame and anger such that participants at higher levels of depression stigma had lower blame and anger toward the victim with depression compared to no mental illness. Female participants had more sympathy for the victim than male participants. Findings are discussed with regard to improving experiences of IPV victims within the criminal justice system.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Nesa Wasarhaley, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Theresa Jackson, Committee Member

Dr. Michael Root, Committee Member

Copyright and Permissions

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