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Asking for it!

2nd March 2009

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One in three students thinks that a woman is responsible for being raped if she is drunk, according to research carried out for the London Student.

The newspaper claims that over a third of students believe that a woman is totally or partially responsible for being raped if she has had to much to drink and that nearly half say she’s in some way responsible if she’d failed to say ‘no’ clearly to a man.

The survey carried out by Opinionpanel Research aimed to reveal students attitude to rape as part of an edition of the London Student focusing on feminist issues.

Participants were given six scenarios and asked whether a woman would be totally responsible, partially responsible or not at all responsible for being raped in each.

Some of the results show some shocking attitudes towards rape. In terms of a rape victim being drunk 31% thought she is partly responsible and a further 3% state she is totally responsible for being raped.

27% thought that flirting made a woman partially responsible for being raped, with 2% believing that it made her totally responsible.

Shockingly a staggering 44% thought that not clearly saying ‘no’ to a man would make a rape victim responsible, with 4% stating that it made her totally responsible.

5% of students believed a woman was totally responsible for being raped if she is alone and walking in a dangerous or deserted area.

However, the number of students holding the woman responsible for rape was lower in the case of them wearing revealing or sexy clothing or if she had many sexual partners.

According to the findings male students were on average more likely to consider the woman in some way responsible for being raped, with the wearing of ‘sexy or revealing clothes’ highlighting the most obvious difference of opinion.

26% of male students said she’d be totally or partially responsible for being raped in that instance, compared to 14% of female students.

The survey also showed a lack of awareness of rape figures – 50% of students did not know how many women are raped in the UK on average in a year, and 15% thought the figure was under 500.

The figure was even higher for students from London universities, with 19% putting the figure at under 500.

The actual figure - according to the Fawcett society, who campaign for equality between men and women - is over 47,000. The Home Office recorded 11,648 incidents of ‘rape of a female’ in 2007//08.

Heather Harvey, Amnesty International UK’s Stop Violence Against Women Campaign Manager told the London Student:, “Amnesty is horrified by the findings of London Student’s survey of student attitudes to rape.”

“A survey we commissioned three years ago showed similar results for people across the UK as a whole. Since then there has been a Government publicity campaign aimed at younger men, and police and court commitments to better train those who work with victims.”

“But these new findings still show that even among younger people the view that women ‘ask for it’ is stubbornly held. Such attitudes stop victims reporting in the first place, and lead to a low conviction rate when juries hear cases. They also create a climate of impunity where men know they can get away with rape as people blame women instead of blaming the rapist.”

“It has been consistently pointed out by campaigners like members of the End Violence Against Women campaign that the Government has failed to develop a programme of prevention around violence against women - they can do seatbelts, smoking, obesity, binge-drinking so why can’t they start to tackle attitudes like these which ignore violence against women or worse still blame women for it?”

Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang, LSE Students Union’s Education & Welfare Officer said: “I find the results of this survey extremely disturbing.”

“I am shocked and appalled that so many students will lay the blame for such a horrendous act at the feet of a woman. The concept that women ask for it to happen and that men somehow cannot help themselves is an atrocious gross misrepresentation of the facts.”

“Government policy has continuously failed victims of rape and sexual assault and they now need to address the scale of public ignorance as well as appallingly low conviction.

Research was conducted by Opinionpanel Ltd between February 11 and 12. The sample consisted of 1,046 interviews with students at 119 Higher Education (HE) institutions representative of the UK HE population in terms of gender, year group and university type.

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