the Disillusioned kid: Shades of Atwood
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Shades of Atwood

A poll by ICM on behalf of Amnesty International reveals "that a third (34%) of people in the UK believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner." The report, part of Amnesty's ongoing Stop Violence Against Women campaign, suggests that the "blame culture," as they have dubbed it, also views choices about clothing, drinking, promiscuity, personal safety and the clarity with which a woman has said "no" in the same light:
For instance, more than a quarter (26%) of those asked said that they thought a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing, and more than one in five (22%) held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners.

Around one in 12 people (8%) believed that a woman was totally responsible for being raped if she’d had many sexual partners.

Similarly, more than a quarter of people (30%) said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk, and more than a third (37%) held the same view if the woman had failed to clearly say “no” to the man.
As Amnesty point out, this would seem to put a sizeable chunk of the British population behind the legislature who recently changed the law relating to consent. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 requires that the defendant reasonably believed the victim had consented, which "is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents" (section 4(2)). (Parenthetical aside: Does anybody else think it's stramge that the Sexual Offences Act describes the victim - "complainant" - using masculine pronouns?)

Strikingly, the "blame culture" seems to be almost as prevalent amongst women as men. ICM note in their report (available as a Word document) that "there were very few gender differences in attitudes; with the only stand out difference relating to male’s opinion that certain dress can make a woman responsible for being raped." In fact, the Guardian - who've had longer to number cruch than I have - point out, "Men are marginally more likely to blame the victim than women, although in the case of drunkenness 5% of women thought a woman would be totally responsible if she were raped, compared to 3% of men."

The survey also reveals a widespread underestimation of the severity of the problem. Amnesty estimates that there "likely to be well in excess of 50,ooo" rapes in the UK every year (according to the Guardian, the police recorded 130,000 rapes last year). Only 4% of respondents even thought that the number exceeded 10,000, however. Conversely, the conviction rate tended to be massively overestimated: "Six out of seven people either said they didn’t know that only 5.6% of rapes reported to the police currently result in conviction or believed the conviction rate to be far higher." The average estimate of 26% was almost five times as high as the actual figure.

This report is a damning indictment of a society which is ignorant of the realities of sexual violence and which holds the victims of that violence responsible for their own plight. One wonders if the problem were one which predominantly affected men whether we would hold comparable views. It think not. Anybody hoping that the report is simply an aberration which does not reflect the reality of modern British society would do well to consider some of the comments from readers of the Daily Mail (some of which have been reposted here should the Mail remove them), which include this not at all misogynistic remark:
There is a big difference between dressing to look attractive and dressing provocatively. Women send out mixed messages to men and then cry 'foul' when a man tries it on. Some women need to understand much better than they do the male psyche.
- Jim Turner, Selby, England
Perhaps Jim might be able to help out Emma who's looking for a guide as to exactly what she can wear this weekend if she isn't to be raped. It's worth noting that this comment issn't just insulting to women, but also to those men whose psyche does not compel them to rape every woman who decides to show a little cleavage.

Next time somebody tells you that the feminists have "won" and as such are unneccesary in modern Britiain, stick this report under their nose. If they still don't get it roll it up and beat them round the head with it. If that doesn't do it you might consider wrapping it in the Daily Mail.

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