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.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

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

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.