I keep coming back to the IUP Criminology Department for feature stories and experts.
First of all, these professors are so accessible. They are busy teachers and researchers, but they are willing to talk with me and to talk with the media when reporters have questions about current issues in criminology.
Second, the work they do is just plain interesting. They ask questions that I might never have thought to ask, and these studies almost always have relevance to reporters and writers.
Criminology professor Jennifer Roberts (who recently was promoted to the rank of professor--congratulations, Dr. Roberts!) did research with one of her doctoral students, Laura King, to try and determine if hometown types have an impact on how people think about rape. She surveyed a sample of IUP undergraduate and graduate students for her study.
You'd think that urbanites, who probably have more exposure to news about crimes like sexual assault, would have a different opinion about these crimes than people from small towns, where the crime rate is lower and there are fewer media reports on sexual assault.
Not so, they found. It's not about the hometown, but it is about gender. Men were still more likely to accept rape myths than women.
Dr. Roberts and Ms. King's "Traditional Gender Role and Rape Myth Acceptance: From the Countryside to the Big City" was published in the 2011 Women and Criminal Justice Journal, showing that hometowns have little to do with the acceptance of "rape myths." Rape myths are stereotypical beliefs about rape.
Dr. Roberts and Ms. King explain that rape myths traditionally blame the victim, excuse the perpetrator, and minimize the severity of the attack based on a number of situational and background characteristics.
Okay. Interesting, but it begs the question: Why does this study matter to the media (which means you and me)?
Here's why: Accepting these myths influences how survivors are treated AND contributes to the underreporting of this crime, Dr. Roberts says.
That's the big headline for this story.
But there is some good news in this research to add to the headline. The overall rape myth acceptance within the pool of students she surveyed was lower than in similar studies conducted decades ago.
There is still much more to be done, Dr. Roberts stresses. Unfortunately, the acceptance of rape myth is still prevalent enough to warrant additional attention through things such as educational programs focusing on myths about rape and dating violence.