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  • 1 Los Angeles, California, USA
  • 2 Department of Anthropology, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA
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Abstract

Thornhill and Thornhill posited that sexual assault inflicts greater fitness costs on women in committed long-term heterosexual relationships than on women not in such relationships because the former face the added risk of decreased investment by their partners. In a series of papers (1990a, 1990b, 1990c, and 1991), Thornhill and Thornhill reported support for what we term the Relationship Status Hypothesis (RSH) using data on the psychological sequelae of rape. Here, we reexamine the RSH in light of Thornhill and Thornhill's original findings and the relevant literature. Identifying limitations of the original work and finding little support for the RSH in other published work, we then test the RSH in two studies using prospective fear of rape as a dependent measure; again, we find no support for the hypothesis. We conclude that, although marital discord following rape is an important issue warranting further study, the Relationship Status Hypothesis has limited empirical support at present.

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