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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 14:45 GMT
Should women be more responsible?
By Dan Parkinson
BBC News

Women drinking
Campaigners say women should be able to drink without fear
A study which reveals many sexually assaulted women may have had too much to drink rather than been drugged has sparked a debate over how much the victims themselves are to blame.

Some commentators say they have watched with alarm the growing number of young women drinking to excess in bars and clubs across the UK.

And it is argued that these women are behaving irresponsibly and putting themselves at risk of being sexually assaulted or raped.

But campaigners say men drink too, and they do not expect to be raped.

'Take responsibility'

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe says women have used date-rape drugs as an excuse when they have been attacked while drunk.

"It is time women accepted that part of liberation is taking responsibility for themselves and their safety," she said.

"I think a lot of women say 'he must have drugged me' when what they really mean to say is 'I got so drunk I can't remember what really happened'.

Alcohol has undoubtedly become the new short skirt in the way that people are looking to put the blame and the onus and the responsibility on women
Julie Bindel
Feminist writer

"I have seen city centres on Friday and Saturday nights and if I had a daughter they are not places I would want her to be.

"I have been saying for a very long time that drink is putting women in danger and I've also been saying for a very long time women have to take responsibility for themselves.

"You can't always ask 'what can be done?' Is government responsible for people's actions?

"What needs to be done is people need to grow up and take more responsibility for themselves."

Media 'silence'

But anti-rape campaigners and some commentators said blame was increasingly being placed on victims of rape rather than their attackers.

It's completely inexcusable to attempt sexual activity with a woman who's severely incapacitated
Paul Hawkins, London

Feminist writer Julie Bindel said: "Alcohol has undoubtedly become the new short skirt in the way that people are looking to put the blame and the onus and the responsibility on women rather than men.

"The media doesn't want to look at why men want to have sex with comatose, drunk women, often covered in vomit, often lying in streets, on the floor, without any notion of what's happening to them."

And Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said: "It is not news that women are drinking. Men drink as well but don't expect to be raped.

Drinking too much is mad but it is not wrong
Anne Atkins

"There's a lot of moralising now, on the subject of women drinking and whether they should or not.

"There's a real backlash against women coming forward about rape."

Both the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which conducted the study, and the government insist that victims of rape are not being blamed.

An Acpo spokesman said: "We are not saying that drug rape doesn't happen. We are saying it doesn't appear to be as prevalent as some feared it might be.

"In many cases alcohol had been consumed and it suggests women have a responsibility to keep their wits about them.

"When you drink to excess or take drugs you make yourself more vulnerable."

'Out cold'

And writer and broadcaster Anne Atkins said women should be more responsible but for practical - rather than moral - reasons.

"I would say to young women 'be sensible and don't put yourself in any danger'. But it is not a women's fault if she gets raped," she said.

"Drinking too much is mad but it is not wrong. A friend of mine suffered a lot of harassment one night.

"She had drunk three glasses of wine, which normally you might be able to handle, but she was almost out cold.

"Her boyfriend thought she had been drugged. But in the end she said it was probably the drink.

"It can happen that easily. Women should never be blamed."

Trauma of reporting rape
18 Jul 03 |  UK
Device targets drink-spiking
19 Apr 04 |  Wales

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