Research has consistently shown that perpetrator-victim relationship is a key factor in predicting third party perceptions of alleged sexual assault (Grubb & Harrower, 2009). Such that, a perpetrator of acquaintance rape is considered less guilty than a perpetrator of stranger rape (Masser, et al., 2010). However, the vignettes used in these studies have confounded location and relationship. Traditionally, the stranger rape has always occurred outside and the acquaintance rape has always occurred in the home (McKimmie, et al., 2014). Therefore, it is not certain as to whether it is location or relationship driving third-party perceptions. This study aimed to detangle this confound and evaluate the influence of location and perpetratorvictim relationship on third-party perceptions of sexual assault. Consistent with previous findings, it was hypothesised that when the perpetrator and victim were acquaintances, rather than strangers, victim blame would be higher and perceived perpetrator guilt and verdict confidence lower. This, in turn, would lower ratings of victim and offence stereotypicality. It was also hypothesised that these same effects would be found when the sexual assault takes place in the home, rather than outside.
One hundred and seventy-four undergraduate students read one of four sexual assault scenarios, where the assault occurred either outside or in the home and the perpetrator and victim were either strangers or acquaintances. Participants then completed subsequent measures of guilt likelihood, verdict confidence, victim and offence stereotypicality, victim and perpetrator blame and rape myth acceptance. Findings indicated that contrary to previous research, relationship had no effect on any outcome measures, rather, location influenced third-party perceptions in the hypothesised direction. This study makes a unique contribution to the sexual assault literature as it is the first study to successfully manipulate location separate from perpetrator-victim relationship, which has implications for the reporting of sexual assault and the treatment of sexual assault victims.