Date of Award

Spring 6-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Chitra Raghavan


The majority of sexual abuse is committed by someone known to the victim. In fact, almost 75%-90% of rape victims know their perpetrator. While there has been a strong movement to identify and prosecute rape, one area that has still received relatively little attention in research and the media is marital rape. Research has found that marital rape is classified as less severe, less violating of women’s rights, and less psychologically damaging than rape taking place outside the marriage. To date, research has suggested that the perception of rape is influenced by a myriad of factors including the degree of force and belief systems about the roles of women and men in society. Currently, there is sparse literature on the impact of degree of force on sexual assault with the available literature focusing only upon stranger rape scenarios. As such, the present study examined the impact of the level of physical force used on perception of marital rape. Undergraduate students (N=289) were surveyed using an online survey. Students completed the Illinois Rape Myth Scale, Attitude towards Women Scale, and demographic questions. Students were randomly assigned to one of three marital rape vignettes describing events that led to a heterosexual married couple having non consensual sex. In each of the scenarios the wife is portrayed as protesting her husband’s sexual advances, in which he ignores and proceeds to have sexual intercourse. Each scenario differed by level of force used. The study found that participants were more likely to perceive marital rape when extreme force was used than in the scenarios that subtle force was used. It was also found that difference in the attitudes towards women’s role in society had an effect on perception of marital rape across the three conditions. These findings will be discussed in relation to the identification, prosecution and prevention of marital rape.



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