Do you know what rape means?
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The issues of consent and rape have been making headlines consistently over the last few months, due partly to a number of high-profile controversies in which public figures have debated or questioned their definitions. At the same time, there have been growing concerns that a large number of young people do not understand what consent is - or what constitutes rape. Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that “a person (A) commits an offence if… B does not consent to the penetration and A does not reasonably believe that B consents.” However, according to a survey by the Havens, a sexual assault referral centre, only 77% of men aged 18-25 agreed that having sex with a person who has said no to sex constitutes rape. This leaves 23% who do not believe this to be the case. Bradford MP George Galloway came under fire recently for his assertion that having sex with a woman who is a asleep with whom one has previously had consensual sex is not rape but merely “bad sexual etiquette.” Since a person who is asleep and cannot reasonably be believed to have given consent, this assertion is clearly contradicted by the Sexual Offences Act and has received heavy criticism from a number of feminist groups, journalists and public figures. However, research suggests that Galloway is not the only one to hold this opinion. According to the Havens’ survey, one in thirty men would assume consent if their partner were asleep; and just 60% of 18-19 year olds said that they believed having sex with someone who is asleep constitutes rape.
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