Document Type




Publication Date



SAGE Publications

Source Publication

Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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Despite substantial evidence demonstrating a relation between gender-based beliefs and violence against women, there has been little research examining whether sexist attitudes are related to prosocial bystander behavior. Understanding psychosocial influences on bystanders’ behavior could inform bystander training programs on college campuses, and so the current study examined the unique and joint effects of three gender-based attitudes (rape myth acceptance, hostile sexism, and benevolent sexism) and empathy in predicting bystander behavior and perceived barriers to intervention in situations that undergraduates (N = 500; 70% female; Mage = 18.86 years) had experienced in the prior year. Benevolent sexism was the only gender-based attitude consistently associated with bystander behavior and perceived barriers. After accounting for participant empathy, benevolent sexism uniquely predicted less intervention in post-assault situations, greater perceived barriers in pre- and post-assault situations, and greater Failure to Perceive Responsibility and Skill Deficit barriers across situations. Associations between gender-based attitudes and bystander behavior also differed for men and women, with rape myth acceptance predicting greater Failure to Perceive Responsibility barriers and benevolent sexism predicting greater Skill Deficit barriers for women but not men. These results suggest that existing bystander education programs can be improved by explicitly addressing benevolent sexist beliefs and promoting empathy for victims of assault.


Accepted version. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (2020). DOI. © 2020 SAGE Publications. Used with permission.

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