This study experimentally examines the effects of participant sex, perpetrator sex, and severity of violence on perceptions of intimate partner violence (IPV) seriousness, sympathy toward the victim, and punishment preferences for the perpetrator. Participants (N = 449) were randomly assigned to a condition, exposed to a composite news story, and then completed a survey. Ratings of seriousness of IPV for stories with male perpetrators were significantly higher than ratings of seriousness for stories with female perpetrators. Men had significantly higher sympathy for female victims in any condition than for male victims in the weak or strong severity of violence conditions. Men’s sympathy for male victims in the fatal severity of violence condition did not differ from their sympathy for female victims. Women had the least sympathy for female victims in the weak severity condition and men in the weak or strong severity conditions. Women reported significantly higher sympathy for female victims in the strong and fatal severity of violence conditions. Women’s ratings of sympathy for male victims in the fatal severity of violence condition were statistically indistinguishable from any other group. Participants reported stronger punishment preferences for male perpetrators and this effect was magnified among men. Theoretical implications are presented with attention provided to practical considerations about support for public health services.
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