Monday, February 22, 2010

Bookend Rape Denial Attitudes Highlighted In UK Survey

The main focus in the media in response to the Wake Up To Rape report (pdf) was who viewed victims as responsible for their own rapes. I blogged about general attitudes and attitudes held by women last week. But this survey contains other revealing attitudes.

79% of respondents said they would report being raped to the police which is a much higher percentage than actual reporting rates. The survey results help explain this gap.

40% of women respondents have been in a situation where they could have been made to have sex they didn't want compared to 20% of men.

23% of the women reported that they had been made to have sex they didn't want compared to 15% of men. Yet the survey found that men take more safety risks than women take.

26% of men have been so drunk they lost their memory. This means that taking safety risks alone doesn't increase sexual violence victimization. College men have become so intoxicated that they have fallen in rivers and drowned, with the latest case I'm aware of happening earlier this month in La Crosse, WS. Other boys and men have died from a mix of alcohol consumption and hypothermia, including a 15 year old boy who was found in a snowbank by his father.

If these men and boys were viewed in the same way as girls and women are routinely viewed when someone rapes them while they are under the influence, the response to these deaths would include "What did they expect?" and far worse.

This level of vulnerability makes these boys and men easy targets for sex offenders. The difference in sexual victimization comes down to who sex offenders try to rape and under what circumstances.

This contrasting risk taking and sexual victimization means that victim behavior prior to rape cannot be accurately viewed as being responsible for rape.

This second rate doesn't specify the gender of the person who made men have sex they didn't want, but some of these men would have been made to have sex by women which means that men who shrug off women's attitudes as not affecting them may discover firsthand that they are wrong. Because some men commit sexual violence against other men, those men who shrug off other men's attitudes may also discover firsthand that they are wrong in feeling safe.

Despite these high numbers of unwanted sexual experiences, 18% of respondents agreed with the statement, "most claims of rape are probably not true" with 27% of the men surveyed agreeing with this statement while 14% of women agreed.

That bias mixed with other attitudes measured in this report is key for understanding the gap between people's belief that they would report and the actual rate of reporting. The reasons these people dismiss most reports of rape can make those same people who believe they would report being raped decide that reporting will subject them to the assumption that their truthful report is probably false.

18% of respondents do not know whether it is rape when a man in a committed relationship makes his partner have sex that partner doesn't want and 10% believe this is not rape. When you add these numbers to the rates at which people believe victims should take responsibility, many people are fine with supporting a rapist-friendly environment and many people are likely to make a false accusation against someone who was raped and who reported that rape truthfully.

Too often genuine consent is viewed as optional. Instead what many people seem to believe in is setting a tolerable level and context for non-consent.

Besides the most common actions which people view as making someone responsible for being raped, 14% of respondents blamed victims for their rapes if they kissed the person prior to being raped and 13% blamed victims who accepted a drink and engaged in a conversation prior to being raped. This means that a large number of women behaving as expected on a first date will be blamed if their date sexually assaults them. A goodnight kiss can become incitement of rape. Those who accept this are the ones who share responsibility when rapists act according to their beliefs.

Combine all these attitudes and nobody needs to wonder why the conviction rate is appallingly low and why the frequency of sexual violence is appallingly high.

The way to reduce the frequency of people willing or trying to commit sexual violence is rooted in getting people who don't consider themselves to be part of the problem to understand that general attitudes either support or undermine sexual violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:45 AM   1 comments links to this post


At February 22, 2010 9:01 AM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

The small-scale survey makes no attempt at analysing how and why so many women blame female survivors for supposedly 'allowing' these men to rape them. Instead this survey attempts to portray women's and men's views as having no relation whatsoever with regards as to how women and men are socialised into diametrically opposite sex roles.

Furthermore male violence is not asymetrical wherein equal numbers of adult men are subjected to sexual violence as adult women.

Men who are raped by other men are viewed as 'real victims' or else such male survivors are viewed as failing to prevent such violence because their supposed masculine status should have protected them. Women however, are not viewed from the same stance, instead they are viewed as wholly responsible for preventing male(s) from raping them. In other words, much of what passes for supposedly normal heterosexual male activity is in fact male sexual coercion and rape of women. This is not the case with regards to males who rape other males - instead such violence is viewed as male aberation, because men are supposed to direct their sexual aggression at women not men.

The contradictory female sex role tells women they are supposed to respond positively to male sexual advances such as kissing, engaging in conversation with men and it is women's responsibility not men's to 'gatekeep' male beliefs a kiss/conversation automatically means the woman has "consented" to any sexual act the man decides to initiate then or at a future date. This widespread belief ignores the fact women as a group do not have socio-political power and yet they are supposed to be able to prevent any male(s) from raping them, despite being taught from birth they are weaker and inferior to males as a group. Such messages are internalised by many women and girls with the tragic result they believe they should have prevented the unpreventable - namely male sexual aggression committed against them.

Men are not routinely held accountable for committing such sexual violence against women - instead women are scapegoated.
Women's and men's sex roles are intricately connected with how and why male sexual violence against women is viewed as isolated individual acts, rather than interconnected with women's socio-political position in relation to men's higher socio-political situation within our male supremacist society.

This is why male risk taking is not viewed as 'risky behaviour' but is part of what supposedly comprises normal masculinity. Only women are supposed to restrict their day-to-day activities whereas men know they are automatically given the right of freedom of movement.

But our male supremacist society was never logical and this particular double standard is yet another example of how women's and men's socio-political different statuses continue to be enacted and maintained.

The small number of women compared to men, who commit sexual violence against adult men are always viewed as pathological deviants because such women have apparently deviated from the male-defined passive feminine role. But patriarchal society consistently portrays sexual violence as something which happens equally between women and men. Hence the constant need to claim asymmetrical acts of sexual violence committed against individuals.


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