Reaction of Peers
As Festinger (1950) noted many years ago, other people help us define reality. This can also be true in defining an experience as acquaintance rape. If a woman tells her friends about an assault experience and they label the experience as rape, the victim will more likely acknowledge the experience as rape then if her friends say something like, “well, you shouldn’t have been in that place at that time.” Pitts and Schwartz (1993) presented evidence that peer reactions were a determinant of rape acknowledgement. In a sample of 288 women they found 19.3% of the respondents reported to have had an experience since entering college that would legally be classified as rape in Ohio. However, only 27% of these women acknowledged that they had been raped; 73% were unacknowledged. These participants were asked if they told anyone about the experience, and if so, whether their friend helped them establish blame. Thirteen participants mentioned that their friend helped them establish blame. All four of the victims who stated that their friend told them it was not their fault were acknowledged victims. All nine of the victims who stated that their friend held them at least partially responsible did not acknowledge victimization.