Another reason for the existence of unacknowledged rape victims may be the nature of the rape scripts some women possess. A script de­scribes the events that normally occur in a given situation (Markus & Zajonc, 1985). Fiske and Taylor (1991) summarized the evidence that peo­ple in a given culture have common scripts for a wide variety of events, including such diverse phenomena as eating at a restaurant, becoming ill, and nuclear war. It is thus highly plausible that women (and men) have fairly well-developed scripts for what happens during a rape.

When a person thinks about the events that make up the experience of rape, it is possible that one of two distinct scripts may emerge. Some people may have an acquaintance rape script in which the assault takes place indoors, involves a known assailant, and entails little force. For oth­ers, however, the thought of rape may evoke a stranger rape script, in which a woman is violently attacked out of doors by a man she has never met who wields a weapon. Given that unacknowledged rape victims are almost always assaulted by someone they know, unacknowledged victims may be women who have a rape script that is descriptive of a violent stranger rape but whose own rape experience involved an assault by an acquaintance. Under these circumstances, there would be a discrepancy between the woman’s rape experience and her rape script. Given this discrepancy, the victim may come to view the incident as something other than rape (Par­rot, 1991; Russell, 1975; Weis & Borges, 1973).

Under the guise of obtaining examples of how people describe a va­riety of events, Kahn et al. (1994) asked college women to write a descrip­tion of the events occurring before, during, and after a typical rape. They found that all but one of the acknowledged victims wrote an acquaintance rape script, but 50% of the unacknowledged victims wrote a script of stranger rape. Additionally, those participants who wrote stranger rape scripts were more likely to write about a physical attack that took place out of doors and in which the assailant threatened to use or used a weapon, were more likely to mention that the victims screamed and struggled, and were more likely to inform the police. Acquaintance rape scripts generally were set indoors, involved restraint rather than an attack, and elicited verbal protests from the victim.

Bondurant (1995) provided additional support for the importance of a woman’s rape script on her rape acknowledgment. Using a method in which participants were asked to think of a typical rape and then indicate the nature of their script by checking alternatives (e. g., “a typical rape is committed a. indoors, b. outdoors"), Bondurant found that unacknowl­edged victims were more likely than acknowledged victims to check alter­natives consistent with a stranger rape.

The research by Kahn et al. (1994) and Bondurant (1995) provides strong support that at least one reason unacknowledged victims exist is because their rape experience differed from their rape script. However, the nature of one’s rape script cannot account for all of the unacknowledged rape victims. Only one half of the unacknowledged victims held a stranger rape script; the other half of the unacknowledged victims did have an acquaintance rape script that likely matched, in at least some detail, their own rape experience. However, these women still did not acknowledge their experience as rape.