Caitlin Maley, a senior at Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, has been named one of just 300 national prizewinning scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the country’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition.
As a Regeneron Scholar, Maley will receive $2,000, while Schreiber High School will receive a matching funds of $2,000 for her winning efforts. She hopes to be one of the 40 national finalists named later this month, with an opportunity to display her work to notable scientists and compete for additional prize monies ranging between $25,000 and the top prize of $250,000.
Maley studied the perceptions of society toward sexual assault victims. Using four different scenarios and a series of questions covering two different surveys, she tested the hypothesis that people hold victims of a minority race more accountable for sexual assault incidents than those of Caucasian descent. Her results proved that there are tendencies to be harsher toward victims of minority descent to the point of assigning blame.
Maley hopes that by understanding the biases uncovered in her research changes can be made to ensure that all cases are evaluated equally.
“I am obviously very proud about receiving this honor,” Maley said. “I am even more excited about the impact that my project may have on the way that people perceive this issue. Every day new reports of sexual assault surface, and so I am happy to be a part of the movement to make change.”
Maley was motivated to research the topic after reviewing different rape scenarios studied in her criminal law class in which tendencies arose to hold victims accountable. This, coupled with an increasing rate of sexual assault incidents on college campuses and accompanying media coverage showing similar victim-blaming tendencies, led her to review numerous reports in which researchers found that people often blamed the victim when they could not relate to them.
Upon her decision to explore this topic, Maley took her research further to test if people are more willing to blame a victim based on racial stereotypes.
“I am very happy for Caitlin. She showed a great deal of courage taking on such a controversial topic, and she has helped shed light on an important factor in the perception of sexual assaults,” said Caitlin’s social science teacher and project mentor, Dr. David O’Connor. “She began her investigation before the rise of the #MeToo movement and finished her paper just as it was beginning to grow. I am so proud of her for making an important contribution to the scholarly literature on the topic.”
Past winners of the Regeneron competition (previously sponsored by Intel and before then, Westinghouse) hold more than 100 of the world’s most distinguished science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science.
“To be one of just 300 students in the country recognized in this search is a tremendous honor and a testament to Caitlin’s dedication, keen knowledge and analysis of her work,” said Port Washington Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Mooney. “On behalf of the board of education and administration, I congratulate Caitlin for her thoughtful and timely, relevant study and commend her teachers and family for their unwavering support. We wish her well on the rest of her journey in the competition.”