When I tell female friends that I’ll be starting a masters in Feminism and Gender in September, they tell me: “I’m so jealous. Let me know some really good statistics about issues that affect women!”. So here’s a collection I made after reading about the Femicide Census project, which aims to collate data of women murdered by men, in order to tackle violence against women more effectively. This is taken from Rape Crisis UK.
Myth Women shouldn’t go out alone, especially at night. Women are most likely to be raped outside, by strangers in dark alleyways, and this is the best way for a woman to protect herself.
Fact Women are often advised to avoid sexual violence by never walking alone at night. But in fact, only around 10% of rapes are committed by ‘strangers’. Around 90% of rapes are committed by known men; someone who the survivor has previously known, trusted, often even loved. People are raped in their homes, their workplaces and other settings where they have previously felt safe. Sometimes, the myth that rape is most commonly perpetrated by strangers can make the majority of survivors, who have been raped or sexually assaulted by someone they know, even less likely to report to the police or even confide in someone close about their experiences, for fear of not being believed, out of a sense of shame or self-blame, and/or because they have mixed feelings about getting the perpetrator ‘into trouble’. This myth can also control women’s movements and restrict their rights and freedom.
Myth The woman was drunk / took drugs / was hitch hiking / wore tight clothes / worked in the sex industry / seduced him / probably got what she was asking for.
Fact If a person is unconscious or their judgement is impaired by alcohol or drugs, legally they are unable to give consent. Having non-consensual sex with a person who is intoxicated is rape.
Rapists use a variety of excuses to attempt to discredit the women they rape and to justify their crimes. But no-one asks or deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted and 100% of the responsibility for any act of sexual violence lies with its perpetrator.
Media often refer to women in the ‘roles’ that they have – ‘young mum’, ‘grandmother’, ‘doctor’s wife’, ‘prostitute’ etc. – and describe arbitrary factors like what she was wearing or how she’d been behaving when she was sexually assaulted. The implication is that some women are more ‘innocent’ victims than others, that some are more worthy of sympathy, or that some women are partly to blame for their experience of sexual violence.
The rules imposed on women’s behaviour allow rapists to shift the responsibility for rape onto women wherever possible, so that rapists are sometimes portrayed as victims of malicious allegations, carelessness or stupidity. There is no other crime in which so much effort is expended to make the victim appear responsible.
Myth Women often make up stories or lie about being raped.
Fact For anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, whether or not to report to the police can be a difficult decision. At present, it’s estimated that only 15% of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year report. One significant reason many women and girls tell us they don’t go to the police is because of their fear of not being believed.
Unfortunately, a disproportionate media focus on the very small number of cases each year that involve a so-called false allegation of sexual violence perpetuates the public perception that malicious false reporting is common. In fact, it is this perception that is entirely false. For many years, studies have suggested that false reporting rates for rape are no different from false reporting rates for any other crime, that is, around 4%. In March 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service published a survey confirming that false rape reports are ‘very rare’ and suggesting they could make up less than 1% of all reports. Read more here.