Date of Award

12-2007

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Higher Education Leadership

Advisor

Elizabeth J. Allan

Second Committee Member

Sue E. Estler

Third Committee Member

Marie J. Hayes

Abstract

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a social problem that permeates society across all social categories (cultural, racial, sexual and economic). IPV remains a significant social problem as victims are often afraid to take action and outside observers are often reluctant to intervene. In the current research, we examine factors that contribute to college students' willingness to intervene in IPV occurring in gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples. It was hypothesized that the extent to which individuals endorsed traditional sexist attitudes towards women, and negative attitudes towards lesbians and gays, the more likely they would be to intervene in male on female violence, and less likely they would be to intervene in same sex violence. Participants (N=420) read one of four randomly assigned scenarios that depicted same sex or heterosexual IPV perpetrated by either a man or a woman (male on female, female on male, male on male, and female on female). Willingness to intervene, perceived severity, sexist attitudes and negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men were then assessed. Consistent with predictions, individuals were significantly less willing to intervene in same sex IPV as sexism increased. In contrast, male participants were significantly more willing to intervene in male against female IPV as sexism increased. Given the prevalence of sexism within society, gays and lesbians experiencing IPV may not receive the same level of assistance as their heterosexual peers. Implications and applications for higher education institutions are discussed.

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