Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Saul Kassin

Third Advisor

Louis Schlesinger


Research exploring the factors that shape public attitudes towards individuals who commit sexual offenses is needed to inform policy and reduce stigma that these individuals face as they reenter society. Prior research has explored demographic factors of those who offend and have been victimized, but few have studied how these variables may interact with one another to shape attitudes toward people who commit sexual offenses. The current study explores whether offender gender, victim gender, and victim age shape the public’s attitudes towards these individuals. Participants were presented with a vignette describing the offense and then they were asked to respond to a series of scales, reporting their suggested length of sentence, perceived seriousness of the offense, and whether they think the individual should be punished or rehabilitated. Victim Age had a significant impact on Perceived Seriousness, Recommended Sentence, and Balanced Justice, with more punitive and negative responses in offenses with younger victims. Offender Gender also had a significant impact on Recommended Sentence, such that male offenders received longer sentences. Finally, Victim Age and Victim gender interacted to impact Recommended Sentence and Balanced Justice. Findings have implications for reentry and addressing stigma faced by individuals who sexually offend.


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