White Female Bystanders’ Responses to a Black Woman at Risk for Incapacitated Sexual Assault

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

Publication Date



We investigated White female college students’ responses to risk for an incapacitated sexual assault involving a Black potential victim. Participants (N = 160) read about attending a party where they saw a man lead an intoxicated woman into a private bedroom. The potential victim was referred to as having either a distinctively Black name (e.g., LaToya) or a non-distinct control name (e.g., Laura). After random assignment to one of these two conditions, participants reported on their intent to intervene and their perceptions of the situation and the potential victim. As expected, participants assigned to the Black potential victim condition reported less intent to intervene, less personal responsibility to intervene, and greater perceived victim pleasure than participants assigned to the control condition. Neither the certainty of risk nor the perceived victim blame differed as a function of the potential victim’s race. In path analyses, personal responsibility to intervene mediated the relationship between victim race and intent to intervene. The current results suggest that White women in college may choose not to help Black women at risk for sexual assault. Bystander education programs should explicitly address race as a potential barrier to helping others in need.


This article was originally published in Psychology of Women Quarterly. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Psychology of Women Quarterly


© The Author(s) 2017