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Aggressive Behavior


Individual acknowledgment of sexual assault and rape perpetration is extraordinarily low in prior research. Only about 1% of individuals report perpetrating rape, in contrast to the 6% perpetrating rape as estimated by using behaviorally specific items that exclude stigmatized words such as rape. The goal of this study was to examine two possible measurement mechanisms for increasing perpetration acknowledgment: label choice and response format. In Sample 1 (N = 291), participants completed two acknowledgment items which varied in label choice. One item used the term rape; one used the term sexual assault. Acknowledgment of perpetration using the label sexual assault was significantly higher than when using the term rape (6.38%−1.71%, p = .01, Cohen's d = 0.44). In Sample 2 (N = 438), participants were presented with a scaled and a dichotomous sexual assault item at different parts of the overall survey. Sexual assault acknowledgment was higher on the scaled item compared to the dichotomous item (15.75% vs. 3.2%, p < .0001, Cohen's d = 0.64). Rates of sexual perpetration as measured behaviorally were higher for ambiguous acknowledgment types (“might or might not,” “probably not”) than for those reporting “definitely not,” (76.81% vs. 29.0%, p < .0001, Cohen's d = 0.59). The two different measurement strategies tested here, using a less stigmatized label such as sexual assault and using a scaled response format, both increased rates of perpetration acknowledgment 3–15x greater than rates documented in prior research.






This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Anderson, RaeAnn E., et al. “Measuring Sexual Violence Perpetration Acknowledgment: Testing the Effects of Label and Response Format.” Aggressive Behavior, vol. n/a, no. n/a. Wiley Online Library,

which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.

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