Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Karyn M. Plumm


The present study examined perceptions of sex offenders using a 2 (history of sexual abuse: present vs. absent) X 2 (type of sexual offense: statutory vs. forcible rape) X 2 (frequency of offense: once vs. multiple occasions) factorial design. Participants (N=228) were asked to read one of eight vignettes describing the sexual assault of a 14-year-old female perpetrated by a 19-year-old male. Results indicated that participants believed the defendant should be convicted, imprisoned, placed in a mental health facility, and have to register as a sex offender more so when the offense was described as forcible rape than when it was described as statutory rape. Results also indicated that participants believed the defendant to be more mentally unstable and saw a greater need for institutionalization when he had a history of sexual abuse than when he did not.