White Women May Be Less Likely to Help Black Women at Risk of Rape

Blurred group of people at house partyWhite college students may be less likely to intervene with black women at risk of being raped than with white women facing the same risk, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. The study looked at how women responded to a hypothetical scenario in which a severely intoxicated woman was led into a bedroom at a party.

People who are severely intoxicated cannot consent to sex. A 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice found 89% of college students who were raped reported drinking alcohol prior to the assault. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

Women’s Willingness to Intervene in a Sexual Assault

Researchers presented 160 white female college students with a story about a man leading an intoxicated woman into a private room during a party. In some versions of the scenario, the potential victim had a stereotypical black name, such as LaToya. In other versions of the story, the woman had a name that researchers determined was not racially distinct, such as Teresa.

Participants who read either version of the scenario perceived the woman was at risk of being sexually assaulted. Participants were unlikely to blame the victim in either scenario. However, those who read about “LaToya” were less likely to report a willingness to intervene in the hypothetical situation. They also felt less personal responsibility for the victim, and some participants believed the victim experienced pleasure from the hypothetical rape.

The study’s authors suggest differences in race and ethnicity can affect a bystander’s sense of personal involvement in this type of scenario, and a lack of personal involvement affects willingness to intervene. They recommend that educators address race and ethnicity in any bystander intervention education, as this lack of personal involvement can put black women at a distinct disadvantage on college campuses with predominantly white students.

Rates of Victimization Among Black and White Women

Most research points to higher rates of sexual victimization among black women than white women. The 2010 NISVS found 22% of black women had been raped, compared to 18.8% of white women. The report shows black women are also more vulnerable to stalking victimization, with a lifetime rate of 19.6%, compared to a rate among white women of 16%.


  1. Katz, J., Merrilees, C., Hoxmeier, J. C., & Motisi, M. (2017). White female bystanders’ response to a Black woman at risk for incapacitated sexual assault. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 036168431668936. doi:10.1177/0361684316689367
  2. Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., Ruggiero, K. J., Conoscenti, L. M., & Mccauley, J. (2007). Drug-facilitated, incapacitated, and forcible rape: A national study. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e667182007-001
  3. National intimate partner and sexual violence survey 2010 summary report [PDF]. (2011, November). Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Division of Violence Prevention.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • chase

    March 17th, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    Well I can only speak for myself and not for other female readers but it would be a cold day in hell before I wouldn’t intervene in an event like this, no matter who the victim is or what he or she looked like! It might cause me to get hurt as well, but so be it. I am not gonna stand by and watch another human being be hurt or taken advantage of.

  • Lamb E

    March 17th, 2017 at 3:49 PM

    Sorry to say most white american women are down for themselves and yes they wouldn’t help a bw in need. I know this a bw married to wm. They want all the protection for themselves and their sisterhood is a sham.

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