Document Type



Master of Arts in Legal and Forensic Psychology

Thesis Committee Chair: Dr. Judith Platania


In the current study, we examined attributions of betrayal trauma theory, learned helplessness and toxic masculinity within the context of intimate partner violence. Betrayal trauma theory posits that interpersonal violence leads to victim isolation. Learned helplessness describes victim apathy and maladaptive passivity. Toxic masculinity features male aggressiveness, abusiveness, and sexism as a function of internalized gender norms. When examined individually, each theory enhances our understanding of how intimate partner violence unfolds. However, the value of exploring intimate partner violence through a joint theoretical lens, allows us to expand our understanding and interpretation of the merits of each theory. With this in mind, in the current study we varied gender of victim and perpetrator within the context of an intimate partner violence scenario. We were primarily interested in how individuals attribute fault and severity through the lens of each theory tested within one experimental paradigm. We also examined the predictive ability of the Intimate Partner Violence Responsibility Attribution Scale (IPVRAS) and PTSD Scale on our primary dependent measures. Our results indicate the PTSD and IPVRAS scales to be significant predictors of measures of severity and fault as well as our theoretical explanations.