Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 3/4, February 2005 (
Perceptions of Dating Violence Following a Sexual
or Nonsexual Betrayal of Trust: Effects of Gender, Sexism,
Acceptance of Rape Myths, and Vengeance Motivation
Gordon B. Forbes,
Rebecca L. Jobe,
Kay B. White,
and Leah E. Adams-Curtis
College women’s (N = 220) and men’s (N = 208) perceptions of violence following a be-
trayal by a romantic partner were studied in an independent groups design that varied gen-
der of the participant, type of betrayal (sexual or nonsexual), and gender of the betrayed
individual. Participants read one of four brief vignettes in which the betrayed person slapped
his/her partner and made his/her lip bleed. Justiﬁcation of this action was rated on 10 items.
Factor analysis of these items indicated the presence of three factors for men and four for
women. Both men and women indicated that hitting the partner, getting even, and being
angry were more justiﬁable following a sexual betrayal. The hitting of a male partner by a
betrayed woman was perceived as more justiﬁed than the hitting of a female partner by a
betrayed man. In absolute terms, hitting and getting even by both women and men were
generally viewed as unjustiﬁable, whereas being angry was viewed as justiﬁable. For both
women and men, scores on the Vengeance Scale (Stuckless & Goranson, 1992) and Rape
Myth Acceptance Scale (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1995) were related to getting even. For men,
the Hostile Sexism Scale (Glick & Fiske, 2001) was related to getting even or being angry and
breaking up. Results indicated that perceptions of reactions to betrayal are related to type of
betrayal and to the dispositional characteristics of the perceiver.
KEY WORDS: dating violence; betrayal; vengeance.
Dating violence and sexual coercion are serious
problems among adolescents and young adults (Koss,
Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987; Silverman, Raj, Mucci,
& Hathaway, 2001; White & Koss, 1991). There is
an extensive literature on the incidence and conse-
quences of these behaviors. Much of this research has
focused on sexual coercion (for a review see Adams-
Curtis & Forbes, 2004) because it has such serious
consequences. Although much is known about how
participants perceive sexual coercion, as Jenkins and
Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois.
Illinois Central College, East Peoria, Illinois.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Behavioral Sciences, Millikin University, 1184 West Main Street,
Decatur, Illinois 62522; e-mail: email@example.com.
Aube (2002) observed, little is known about percep-
tions of nonsexual dating aggression.
Dating violence, like all violence, is an ex-
tremely complex phenomenon that is a product of
interactions among antecedent, situational, inter-
personal, and dispositional variables. Out of this
complex of variables, the aggressor often identiﬁes
a speciﬁc event as the proximal cause and describes
it as the provocation for the violence (Gelles, 1974).
Sometimes this provocation is immediately obvious,
and most observers would perceive the resulting
violence as appropriate. For example, if a person
was violently attacked, had no way to escape, and
responded with only enough violence to insure
self-protection, it seems likely that most observers
would judge his or her reaction as justiﬁed. On the
other hand, sometimes the provocation is so slight,
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.