Can perpetrators discern survivors from voice?

Elisa Monti, Wendy D’Andrea, Linda M. Carroll, Katherine Norton, Noga Miron, Olivia Resto, Kayla Toscano, John Williams, David Harris, Laurel Irene, Anne Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Research has shown that potential perpetrators and individuals high in psychopathic traits tend to body language cues to target a potential new victim. However, whether targeting occurs also by tending to vocal cues has not been examined. Thus, the role of voice in interpersonal violence merits investigation. Objective: In two studies, we examined whether perpetrators could differentiate female speakers with and without sexual and physical assault histories (presented as rating the degree of ‘vulnerability’ to victimization). Methods: Two samples of male listeners (sample one N = 105, sample two, N = 109) participated. Each sample rated 18 voices (9 survivors and 9 controls). Listener sample one heard spontaneous speech, and listener sample two heard the second sentence of a standardized passage. Listeners’ self-reported psychopathic traits and history of previous perpetration were measured. Results: Across both samples, history of perpetration (but not psychopathy) predicted accuracy in distinguishing survivors of assault. Conclusions: These findings highlight the potential role of voice in prevention and intervention. Gaining a further understanding of what voice cues are associated with accuracy in discerning survivors can also help us understand whether or not specialized voice training could have a role in self-defense practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2358681
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • assault
  • perpetration
  • trauma
  • victimization
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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