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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 06:24 GMT
Rape: is a woman's behaviour to blame?
young women on a night on the town
Does wearing a short skirt make a woman partially responsible?
A survey of British attitudes towards rape and sexual assault has shed new light on Britain's low rate of convictions for the crime.

One in three people apparently hold a female rape victim at least partially responsible for rape, if she has behaved flirtatiously.

That's the finding of a poll of 1,000 people conducted for the organisation Amnesty International.

This morning on Breakfast:
What you told Breakfast
Rape is a shocking and horrible crime but if a woman dresses in a seductive way or behaves in a flirtatious manner and is then raped, she cannot abdicate all responsibility. If I leave my car with the door wide open, I hold a substantial share of the blame if it is stolen!
William Holmes
If men walk down the street in expensive looking clothes, are they asking to be mugged? Should a burglar be let off if you leave a door unlocked? I think not
John Fielder, Cumbria

  • We debated the question of who's to blame, with Kirsty Brimelow - a barrister who defends men accused of rape - and Nicole Westmarland, from Rape Crisis, which supports women who have been attacked.

    "I wish I could say we're surprised but unfortunately not," Nicole told us. "This really is a major problem that we face in rape trials.

    "A huge proportion believe these rape myths."

    Kirsty Brimelow is a barrister, who defends people accused of rape.

    She told us she was surprised that people still believe that wearing skimpy clothes could be an aggravating factor. But, she added that the CPS was sometimes too willing to carry on with cases which were unlikely to succeed.

  • We heard more from Amnesty International about their survey, when we talked live to Neil Durkin.

    He told us that Amnesty was shocked by the findings of its own survey.

    More details from BBC News online:

    The Amnesty International poll of 1,000 people also found over 25% believe she is at least partly to blame if she has worn revealing clothing or been drunk.

    Amnesty said the findings were "truly shocking" and showed the government's policies on tackling rape were failing.

    The Home Office says it has changed the law to try to improve conviction rates.

    "We have made a number of changes to the legal system and to how the police and Crown Prosecution Service work, to put victims needs first and to make it easier for cases to get to trial and secure convictions," a spokesman said.

    Rape is an appalling crime and has a devastating effect on victims and those close to them. Nobody asks to be raped
    Joanna Perry
    Victim Support

    "We are determined to close the gap between the increasing number of rape cases reported and the low number of convictions."

    However, the Amnesty poll, carried out by ICM, found that most people in Britain had no idea how many women were raped every year in the UK or how few of the cases reported to police resulted in a conviction.

    Almost all, 96%, said they either did not know the true extent of rape or thought it was far lower than the true figure. Just 4% thought the number of women raped exceeded 10,000.

    'Disturbing attitudes'

    The number of recorded rapes of women in 2004/5 was 12,867 - up 4% on the year before - although police estimate that just 15% of rapes come to their attention. Only 6% of reported rapes result in a conviction.

    Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said the poll, part of its Stop Violence Against Women campaign, had uncovered "disturbing attitudes".

    She said: "It is shocking that so many people will lay the blame for being raped at the feet of women themselves and the government must launch a new drive to counteract this sexist 'blame culture'."

    The research exposed the scale of public ignorance over rape as well as the "dreadfully low" conviction rates, she added.

    'Devastating effect'

    "The government has an international duty to prevent this gross human rights violation yet it's clear that the government's policies on tackling rape are failing and failing badly."

    Rape survey
    Andy Tighe reports on the survey's controversial findings

    BBC Breakfast



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