Rape victims are sometimes to blame, say women

A new survey yields depressing results, as most female respondents say that victims are partly to bl

The results of a survey published today suggest that more than half (54 per cent) of women think that rape victims are sometimes to blame for the crime.

Of these women, 71 per cent thought that the victim should accept responsibility if she got into the same bed as her attacker, compared to 57 per cent of men. Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of women said the victim should accept partial responsibility if she went back to the attacker's house.

Twenty-three per cent thought that a victim who danced suggestively on a night out was to blame if she was subsequently raped, and 31 per cent thought the same of those wearing provocative clothes.

These statistics -- gathered in an online survey for the Haven sexual assault referral centres -- are sadly indicative of the culture of blame and disbelief that still surrounds rape. It is particularly worrying that the youngest group -- those aged between 18 and 24 -- were the least forgiving. The survey results show that these common attitudes are not undergoing any positive generational shift.

Indeed, if this survey is cross-referenced to a similar poll five years ago, it appears that attitudes may have hardened. Then, a minority of British people blamed women for rape, although there was no notable difference between the genders.

On specifics, the results were similar: 30 per cent thought that a woman was at least partly responsible for getting raped if she was drunk, and 22 per cent if she had had many sexual partners.

These findings are depressing, but perhaps not wholly surprising. Why are people -- and women specifically -- so keen to blame the victim? Such entrenched social attitudes may well be linked to the culture of disbelief in the justice system, and in the media.

 

"False accusations"

I have blogged before about the UK having Europe's lowest conviction rates for rape -- just 6.5 per cent of reported cases, compared with 34 per cent for other crimes.

It is also notable that cases of false accusation receive a disproportionate amount of newspaper coverage. A quick internet search yields innumerable results, though Rape Crisis estimates that false reporting rates for rape are roughly 6-8 per cent, exactly the same as for other crimes.

This excessive coverage was reflected in the survey: 18 per cent of respondents said they thought most accusations of rape are probably false.

But the fact is, if so many people are ready to believe that a woman is culpable in her own violation, jury trials will inevitably be affected: it is a self-perpetuating, vicious circle. The majority of people in the Haven poll were keen to assign partial blame to the victim; at the same time, one in five women said she would not report it to the police if she was raped, because she would be ashamed, or would not be believed.

The feeling is justified. Just last year a Freedom of Information request showed that some police forces were failing to record more than 40 per cent of reported rape cases. Yet we have no hope of changing police attitudes if such views continue to proliferate across society.

We urgently need education -- a high-profile campaign, starting with schools, to bring the facts to the public and eradicate the idea that rape is sometimes deserved.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.