21/11/2005

Women's behaviour ‘blamed’ for rapes

A third of those polled in the UK believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she behaves flirtatiously, a survey has suggested.

The poll of 1,000 people by Amnesty International UK, which has sparked controversy over the findings, also revealed that a quarter of those surveyed believed that wearing revealing clothes or being drunk left a woman at least partially responsible if she was raped.

More than one in five respondents also held the same view of a woman who had many sexual partners, while more than a third said a woman was at least partially responsible if she failed to clearly say ‘no’ to the man.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “This poll shows that a disturbingly large proportion of the public blame women themselves for being raped.

“It is shocking that so many people will lay the blame for being raped at the feet of women themselves and the government must launch a new drive to counteract this sexist ‘blame culture’.”

The poll also found that the vast majority of Britons did not know how many women were raped every year in the UK. Ninety-six per cent of those polled said that they didn’t know the true extent of rape or thought that the figure was far lower.

Amnesty International UK found that only 4% of respondents put the figure at more than 10,000, while the charity said the true figure was likely to be in excess of 50,000.

The majority of those surveyed also over-estimated, or did not know, the conviction rate for reported rapes. The average estimate was a 26% conviction rate – nearly five times higher than the actual rate of 5.6%.

Ms Allen said: “In addition to uncovering disturbing attitudes over women being ‘to blame’, this poll also reveals the scale of public ignorance of the unacceptably high numbers of women raped every year in the UK as well as the dreadfully low conviction rates.

“The government has an international duty to prevent this gross human rights violation, yet it’s clear that the government’s policies on tackling rape are failing and failing badly.

“These findings should act as a wake-up call to the government to urgently tackle the triple problem of the high incidence of rape, low conviction rates and a sexist blame culture.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the law had been changed to try and improve conviction rates. He said: “We have made a number of changes to the legal system and to how the police and Crown Prosecution Service work, to put victims’ needs first and to make it easier for cases to get to trial and secure convictions.”

(KMcA/SP)

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