Daily Record / White Ribbon Scotland

One in four young Scots believe rape victims are partly to blame if drunk or dressed 'provocatively' when attacked

ID: 201308140001

A QUARTER of young people in Scotland believe that a rape victim is partly to blame if she was attacked when she was drunk or dressed “provocatively”.

The shocking attitude was revealed among 16 to 24-year-olds in a new survey of our nation’s view of violence against women.

One-sixth of all respondents believed that rapists are men who can’t control their sexual urges and a third thinks it’s a woman’s responsibilty to walk out if she is the victim of domestic violence.

Callum Hendry, campaign co-ordinator of White Ribbon Scotland, said the survey results showed drastic action was needed to address ignorant attitudes in Scotland.

He said: “The fact that almost one in four young people believe that a woman can be held responsible for being raped because of her clothing or for being drunk is a huge concern.

“We need to continue to deliver education messages that change this attitude.

“This type of victim blaming prevents women from coming forward for support. We just cannot allow that to continue – it is a disservice to all women.”

The research exposes dangerous myths that exist around the issue of violence against women, which was apparent in all age groups but particularly in youngsters.

Ten per cent of people thought that rapes were carried out by a stranger to the victim while in reality that happens in only eight per cent of cases.

This misinformed view doubled in the 16 to 24 age group.

The survey was designed as a snapshot of attitudes in Scotland, using just less than 2000 people from every local authority.

It is seven years since a similar analysis was conducted north of the border.

The research involved focus groups in Falkirk, Inverclyde and Edinburgh, two of which were with men under the age of 25 and two were conducted with men over 25.

White Ribbon was set up in 2010 to involve men in ending violence against women through education and campaigning.

In the focus groups it found, there was a consensus that “others” raped, not “normal” people and that they had to be “sick”.

The report said: “The idea that it is something abnormal or “sick” can lead people to believe that those around them are incapable of being violent towards women.

“This belief can easily lead to absolving rapists of responsibilty unless they fit a violent or “sick” stereotype, which, as we know, is not the case.

“Such attitudes create an environment in which victims may feel less able to come forward for support as they feel they will not be believed or receive the justice they deserve.”

A commonly held myth was that men raped because they couldn’t control their sexual urges.

The report said: “Believing men are unable to control themselves against subconscious sexual urges implies that they are not entirely accountable for their actions but rather are victims themselves to their needs.”

The truth is that rape is often about power and control over a victim and not about sexual urges.

Much of White Ribbon Scotland’s work exists to combat myths that can blame the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Some of the views in relation to domestic abuse were just as disturbing. A third believe it is a woman’s responsibility to leave an abusive relationship.

The report said this underestimates the trauma, the fear, control and difficulties faced by women in abusive relationships, which create significant obstacles in attempts to escape abuse.

But there was awareness that domestic violence was not only about physical abuse, with only eight per cent believing that was the case.

But 80 per cent thought alcohol and drugs caused men to be violent to their partners, which detracts from the abuser’s responsibilty for his actions and the fact that domestic violence is about maintaining power and control over victims.

Lily Greenan from Scottish Women’s Aid said she was encouraged that respondents realised that domestic abuse could be mental and verbal torture, not just physical abuse.

But she said: “Victim blaming stops women reporting it. It stops them from seeking support and it stops them from getting justice. We need to work with young people to change the question from ‘Why does she stay?’ to ‘Why does he abuse?’.”

When asked if the purchase of sex or sexual images can create harmful attitudes towards women, two-thirds agreed it did. Linda Thompson from The Women’s Support Project said she was heartened to find most people agreed that prostitution and pornography were damaging.

She said: “This highlights that men and women are aware of the wider potential cultural impact of the opportunity to buy sexual activity from, and view sexual images of, women on how women are viewed and treated.”

The report also gives a fascinating insight into how society views masculinity – there was still a view of men as being stereotypically macho.

Seven in 10 associated the word “control” with men, eight in 10 said they were expected be physically strong and two-thirds said they should be viewed as powerful.

Yet only three in every hundred thought they should be emotional and five per cent thought they should be sensitive.

The report said: “This narrow view of masculinity is reflected in the difference in how young boys and girls are spoken to as they grow up, and even in how products are marketed.

“The emphasis on physical strength and the lack of emphasis of sensitivity may influence how men behave in relationships and towards women.”

Almost 90 per cent of people agreed that sexual inequality contributes to a society where violence against women is acceptable.

And 97 per cent said everyone in society shared a duty in ending violence against women.

The report recommends that campaigning on issues such as gender gaps in pay and sexual inequality could help change the attitudes that perpetuate violence.

It suggests parents should be targeted to encourage them to educate children about sexual inequality, preventing violence and sexual consent.

It also emphasises the need to redefine its definition of masculinity and encourage men to stand up against violence and change controlling behaviour.

Read the full report here

Land: GBR