The Big 5 Ep 11_Amy Newman_mixdown
2:45PM Jan 31, 2022
Dr. Amy Newman
Hello and welcome to the Big Five podcast from Northumbria psychology department. My name is Dr. Genavee Brown and I'll be your guide into the minds of psychology students, alumni and researchers at Northumbria University. I'm a lecturer and a social psychology researcher in the psychology department. Each week on this podcast I'll speak to a guest who is either a student, alumni or researcher in the Northumbria psychology department. By asking them five big questions, we'll learn about their time studying psychology, and hopefully learn some big facts about human behavior and experience. Since February is LGBTQ history month, we'll be talking about research with LGBTQ participants in these two episodes. Today I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Amy Newman. Hello, Amy. Hi, Jen. Amy is a lecturer in the psychology department. She studies evolutionary theories of partner choice and examinations of victim blaming and sexual assault cases. She currently is a program leader for the MSC psychology distance learning program, and teaches mental health and crime and topics in forensic psychology. Just a note for our listeners today, this episode will contain discussions of sexual assault, rape, hate crimes and violence against LGBTQ people, particularly trans people. So if you're not comfortable with those topics, please skip out on this episode and come back in two weeks for our next episode. All right. So Amy, not exactly a joyful topic, but a very important one to study. What got you interested in this topic? And what are some of the theories beside behind the research that you do in this area?
So my undergrad degree was a joint degree in psychology and law. And so kind of the whole of my undergrad was thinking about how the law and psychology in the set and so a big a big chunk of that is sort of forensic psychology, socio legal psychology and sort of straight away as soon as we started learning about things like sexual offenses, it was just very gendered. And even on my undergrad that didn't sort of sit right, like even the definition of what rape is, is very gendered and heteronormative. And so I kind of my undergrad thesis and my master's thesis were all about victim blaming in sexual assault cases, and how the public on how jurors can take what we call rape myths into account when they're deciding on whether or not a perpetrator was guilty. But a lot of that research is in itself very heteronormative, the research tends to be a male perpetrator, with female victim. And it tends to be sort of Stranger situations, which is actually one of the least common types of sexual assault and rape is by a stranger. And so it kind of all just came together into one big question when I started writing topics in forensic psychology, and I was trying to find research about what we know about victims of rape, who are men or who are in the LGBTQ community. And that just wasn't a lot out of that. So I decided that I was going to try and get some research out there instead.
Yeah, that's a great goal, because I'm, I'm sure it is lacking. And what are some of the theories that you use in this research.
So a lot of it has to do with rape myths. So very stereotypical and false beliefs that put blame on to the victim, or reduce blame on the perpetrator. And this kind of is why we see people not reporting their sexual assaults to the police, because they're worried that they're going to experience the effects of these rape myths, like, they won't be believed or they'll be blamed, or they're making up for attention or because they regret what they did. And the theories behind that are kind of there's a few sort of key ones, there's the just will theory. And this is all about how, as humans, we need to assign some order and a logic to the world. Because if we think the world is completely random, that is just too chaotic for operators to handle. And so we kind of get into this concept that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. So when you put the concept of sexual assault array, what you end up with is people thinking, well, they must have done something, why would they walk in home alone? That sort of thing comes up. You also have the concept of sexual scrapes. So in our life, we have scripts or schemas for almost everything. So as a child You'll learn what a cat is in in your head, you'll have this picture of what a cat is, later on, you might be a tiger, and somebody will say, Oh, it's part of the cat family. And that won't mesh very well in your brain because a tiger is nothing like a cat in your hand. And we have this for all sorts of sexual experiences. So how you expect a sexual experience to go. And what we see is that when people have cognitive schemas for rape, it tends to be a stranger scenario. So it'll be a woman walking home in the dark down an alleyway, and a stranger jump so and he has a weapon, and she fights him off valiantly, but it's just not enough. And that's how it happens. And so when as a Juror, you go to court, and you hear a different story. So for instance, an ex partner or current partner, sexual assault is one of the most common types of assault, you'll hear in this story. And it doesn't match your schema. What's important about that is that if it doesn't match your schema, you actually struggle to retrieve the memory of what you've heard. And obviously, in a jury, you need to have this really, really great memory, and sort of either taken notes or remember in the evidence that you've heard. But if what you're hearing isn't sort of coherent with your rape script, or your rape schema, you struggled to retrieve that information. And so we end up with these really, really horrible situations where jurors are taking into account extra legal factors. And like she was drunk, or they were revealing clothing. And that's what sticks in our mind instead.
Yeah, yeah. So our ideas about what we're about to hear, as jury members might conform to those schemas that we we already have in mind. Yeah, exactly. How do you go about studying rape myths? And these topics? What are some of the methodologies of the studies that you've used?
So a lot of it that we've done is questionnaire based? And at the moment, it's mostly prevalence based? So has this happened to you? Yes, or No. But we also have experimental studies that we can do. So I did an eye tracking experiment a couple of years ago, where we gave the participants a fake news article. And it was mocked up to look like it was just a normal BBC article. They it was about rape case, they read it, and then answered some questions. And what we were interested in was where they looked back to when they were deciding these questions about who was to blame? Do you think this person is guilty, and so on? And what we actually saw is that in the condition where the CCTV of the victim was wearing, like a crop top and a mini skirt, people were actually focusing more on her picture, when they were answering the is the perpetrator guilty than they were actually reading any of the facts. Wow. And so that kind of really stuck out as this almost witnessing readmit inaction by being able to trace the path of their eyes talk when we're making these decisions.
Yeah, that's super interesting, that eye tracking study. I wonder if there's any other kind of interesting or surprising findings from your prevalence studies that you talked about? Maybe specifically related to the LGBTQ community?
Yeah. So this prevalence study that we're working on at the minute, we've got about 600 people, and we were aiming to get a good representative sort of, of all sorts of different genders, and sexual orientations so that we can get more information than just cis women who are also straight and says men who are also straight. And so we have this lovely sample from all sorts of different areas. And we did actually find that there was a significant difference in the number of harmful sexual behaviors that were experienced by gender and by sexual orientation. What I thought was interesting is that when we looked at the gender analysis, there wasn't a significant difference between members of gender minorities, and they all had very, very similar number of harmful experiences presented. There was a significant difference between cis men and cis women in that cis women had a lot more harmful sexual experiences they had like experienced. When it came to orientation, we found that bisexual and queer people were significantly more likely to have experienced more harmful sexual behaviors. And one thing to know is that this is just with partners. So we weren't looking at stranger incidences or acquaintance, incidences, this was specifically with somebody who at your time was a partner. And that was sort of defined however, they saw it, it could be long term, it could be short term, it could be casual, it could be committed, as long as they sort of defined it as a partner. When we looked at it by orientation, the bisexual group and the queer group experienced way more harmful sexual experiences from part as than any other orientation. And I thought that was particularly surprising, because in what limited research we have got, it tends to be the most severe difference comes from gender, and it tends to be trans people who experience more harmful sexual behaviors. And that isn't what we found in our sample. So that got me thinking about whether the previous studies, the previous research that's happened, where trans people have such a high prevalence of sexual assault, whether that comes more from strangers or acquaintances in the guise of hate crimes. Yeah, rather than it being partner specific, which is what we were asking. So I thought that was quite surprising. So I was expecting the trans people to be sort of at the most risk. But that doesn't seem to be the case, with the partners.
Oh, I was just gonna ask about what kind of prevalence are we talking about? Do you have the percentages?
So we split it down into a list of 20 different harmful sexual activities, but harmful sexual behavior, sorry. And we sort of took an average for each subgroup. And so for instance, if we were looking at orientation, and the bisexual people, and the queer people that are averages were five and eight, respectively, compared to for instance, the straight group, which was two, so significant differences there. But what I thought was really interesting was when we break it down question by question. The majority of the sample is LGBTQ, the straight, the straight aspect is a very small percentage of the of the study. And when you break it down, the first question that we asked them was, have you ever been raped by a partner? And 22% of the full sample said, yes. But then a couple of questions later, we asked, Have you ever engaged in sexual activity with a partner due to the fear of their response if you refused? And 42% of them said, yes. So there's this difference in how people are defining what rape is to them, if you're having sex with somebody, because of the fear of their response that isn't really giving consent. And so you know, that is sexual assault, that is rape, but people aren't conceptualizing it in that way. More than double of the people who said they've been raped on said yes to that question. So it kind of has that flow the whole way through. So like, Have you ever engaged in sexual acts? Do you have been made to feel guilty by a partner, and that was 49% of the group. So we're seeing these huge percentages of the group engaging in these harmful sexual activities, but not understanding or not conceptualize that to be rape or sexual assault? And I think that's what's most concerning about all of this, and I think a lot of that comes down to how the law defines rape and sexual assault particularly for LGBTQ victims.
Yeah, I was just about to say, I'm actually surprised that it's as high as 22%. Because I don't know if you asked specifically a sample of straight participants if it would be that high. And I wonder if that's because people in the LGBTQ community might actually be more aware about consent.
That was something that we were interested in. So we did have a small qualitative part for this study, where we asked them to define in their own words what they thought rape was, and we do see a real difference in how the LGBT sample defines what they think rape is compared to the straight sample. The so straight sample is very much almost sort of strictly following the legal definition. Like there was a lot of mention about penises, the queer sample was a lot more open, it was more things like that doesn't have to be penetration, any sexual act can be. you know, more open discussion about consent, and sort of more detail about what consent actually men versus some of the straight participants where it was, you know, somebody has to have penis and vagina intercourse against your will. So I thought that was quite an interesting difference.
Yeah, that's very interesting. Also wonder about the high percentages of maybe call it coercive sex, when in situations where you're afraid your partner might be angry, or you feel guilty about it, maybe because of some of the pressures on LGBTQ people. In society, you feel like you need to keep your partner at all costs. And so that might kind of pressure you in those situations. I wonder if you had any, any data about that in your study?
Yeah, so I think that's a great point. And I think it almost sort of links into some of the stereotypes that can come across in the world about LGBTQ people, like, for instance, particularly strong stereotypes about gay men being very promiscuous. And whether or not people are internalizing that into thinking that is how I need to behave in order to keep my partner. And so that's sort of something that we want to drill down a little bit more into when we finish sort of analyzing the day around there. But yeah, I definitely think there's something about stereotypes and how people perceive each other, or how people perceive how many options they have. As an LGBTQ person, if I lose this person, I'm not going to be able to find somebody else who is accepting of me. And that sort of kind of all fits into maybe people. Not quite realizing that this behavior is coercive, and more just, it's part and parcel of a relationship. We're not teaching people in schools, what all relationships look like. A lot of the sex ed in schools is, again, very heteronormative, if there is any at all. And so people aren't seeing their own types of relationships are represented. And so we can't provide what a healthy relationship looks like, you've got nothing to base it on. Yeah. And the sample was pretty young. Overall, the mean age was about 24. And so if you haven't got anything to sort of be, what healthy relationship that looks like the relationship you're in is these sorts of behaviors can kind of creep in without the person necessarily realizing immediately that it's illegal. It's a problem.
I've got two more questions, I guess, maybe I'll start with where do you hope to go from here? So what are the kinds of follow up studies that you you think might need to be done?
So really, this kind of this study is kind of like the starting point, really, what I would love is to do more studies about how people understand what's happened to them, especially the people who are saying they haven't been raped in that first question, but that are answering yes to a lot of the other harmful sexual activities. How are they conceptualize? And that? And is that based on things like the legal definition, and the media and all of these sort of rape myths, you know, one of the main rape myths is that men can't be raped. And if you're conceptualizing that, and internalize that, as a person, how is that affecting your mental health? How is that affecting your future relationships? And so I think the best way to do that is to have studies focusing specifically on these groups, focusing specifically on LGBT groups, because we know that they have so much minority stress coming from all other areas of their life, that don't have the representation. And they don't have the resources coming into into them. Overall, those not many resources at all when it comes to sexual assault, but primarily the ones that are out there or for cis women. And I know that some trans women have had difficulty accessing services that are specifically for cis women. And if you aren't getting the support, that you aren't getting a spot from the police, why would you report what's happened to you? You know what I mean? That's kind of where I want to take us in the future, getting more information about what we don't know about these groups that people say are hard to reach, or not. People just aren't putting in the energy. They're not putting in the effort or they're coming at it from a sort of point of view, almost like or the other group, rather than sort of doing the research themselves.
Yeah, I guess that feeds into my last question. I just wonder what impact you would like this work to have, you know, what, what are you hoping to be able to implement from this knowledge is that only education in schools that specifically is support for victims? Are there any other kind of applications that you see from this work?
So, all of the above, I think we need better sex ed, across all ages. And some universities are starting to bring in like consent classes as part of induction week. But again, we're still focusing on the female that the male perpetrator needs to be more than that we need more support that is specifically tailored towards LGBTQ participants. We need specialist training for the police in how to deal with LGBTQ sexual crimes. But what I would love is love legal policy change. At the minute in England and Wales brief is defined, there has to be a penis involved. And lastly, penile penetration for it to be classed as rape. If it's anything else, it sexual assault, and it's either a sexual assault by penetration or sexual assault, and that sexual assault by penetration, and so every have the same maximum sentence, but the difference in the title in the crime that you've been given, seems to be quite significant. And so having a more gender neutral orientation, neutral definition that is more encompassing, of sexual activity that isn't just penis and vagina, I think it's really, really key in order for people to be more comfortable report in what's happened to them. So that everybody actually understands this is this, this this, this is a crime. It's not just something that happens. And that's really important.
Yeah, and I think that would also help heterosexual cisgendered victims as well, because, you know, sexual assault can be extremely damaging without any sort of penetration. Any sort of forcible sexual act can be terribly traumatizing to people. So it would be nice if that definition could be wider so that we could understand better the situations that people have been through and be able to prosecute those.
Absolutely. And if we have this more encompassing definition, we're going to be able to get more accurate prevalence results as well, because people are going to actually be able to say, Oh, I have been raped. I just didn't get it under this previous definition prior to 2012. And the FBI definition of rape was a carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. And when research has actually looked at that they've found that over 40%, of rape cases would have actually been messed under that definition. Aside from the fact that it's full of legalese, and isn't very understandable at all. And it's very gender specific 40% of cases wouldn't have been able to be prosecuted under that definition. So just think about what we would see if we had a more open definition.
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Is there is there anything else that you think maybe our listeners should know about? Any ways that they can support anyone who's been a victim of sexual assault or any organizations that specifically support LGBTQ people currently?
Yeah, so um, for LGBTQ people, the support system that I always recommend is Galop. So Galop is specifically for members of the LGBTQ community. So you can expect a much more diverse year does not have the fear about Will I be accepted in this support group because of who I am or what I identify as it is specific to LGBTQ victims survivors. And so that is always my number one recommendation in terms of if somebody discloses to you that they've been evicted. The main thing is non judgmental. Don't ask for you know, further details. We sometimes see that like, oh, so what actually happened? Don't Don't private details if the person wants to share they will share But don't sort of put them under the pressure to do so. And just let them know that you're there whenever they want to talk about it. And if they want to report or if they do, that is entirely their decision. And there are good reasons why you might report but also good reasons why you might not feel comfortable reporting. And so really just to support whatever decision they do, make.
Yeah, that's a very good point to help help them get some control back. Absolutely. Yeah. So I will link to some support in the shownotes for anyone out there who is interested in those things. And I'd like to thank you again, Amy, for presenting this interesting and important work. Where can people find you online if they would like to continue to follow your research?
So I have my staff page on the Northumbria website. And I'm also on Twitter. Amy underscore underscore Amy's felt weird because I made the account when I was about 15. So it's A M E E E underscore Underscore.
All right, and I will put that in the show notes as well. Alright listeners if you would like to learn more about Northumbria psychology, check out our psychology department blog at Northumbria p s y.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at Northumbria P S Y. If you want you can follow me on Twitter at Brown Genavee and stay updated on episodes. And if you'd like to be interviewed on the podcast or know someone who would please email me at Genavee firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, if you like the podcast, make sure to subscribe to our podcast on your listening app. Give us a review and rating. I hope you've learned something on this voyage into the mind. Take care until next time