CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles

The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on Legal Perceptions of Lesbian Intimate Partner Violence


The present study examined legal perceptions of lesbian intimate partner violence (IPV) in an experimental context. Undergraduate women and men from the Southeastern United States (N = 217) read a trial summary in which the defendant was charged with physically assaulting her same-sex partner. The trial varied as to whether the victim and defendant were depicted via images as either feminine or masculine. Participants rendered verdicts and made judgments about the victim and defendant (e.g., credibility). Results indicated that the victim's and defendant's masculine or feminine appearance affected these judgments. Female participants viewed a masculine victim as more credible than a feminine victim when the defendant was masculine. When the victim was masculine, they viewed a masculine defendant as more responsible for the victim's injuries than a feminine defendant. Male participants had higher sympathy for a masculine versus feminine victim overall, but had more anger toward a masculine defendant versus a feminine defendant accused of assaulting a feminine victim. Finally, fewer participants mentioned the defendant's history of violence as a reason for a guilty of felony verdict for a feminine victim with a feminine defendant versus all other combinations of victim and defendant masculine/feminine appearance. Results are discussed in terms of gender stereotypes influencing legal decision-making in IPV cases among lesbian couples.

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Notes/Citation Information

To be published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

© The Author(s) 2015

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