Some people still blame sexual assault on short skirts, a study suggests

By Lindsay Brown & Imran Rahman-Jones
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
Women dressed in skirtsImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
The Fawcett Society study is based on a survey of 8,000 people, roughly divided equally between men and women

Sexual assault victims are still being blamed by some sections of society for being attacked, a study suggests.

Figures released by the Fawcett Society show that 41% of men aged 18-24 say that a woman who is drunk and wearing a short skirt is "totally or partially to blame" if they are sexually assaulted.

Sam Smethers from the Fawcett Society says she's "shocked by the scale of the blame culture".

"Our blame culture is deeply embedded in our society," she says.

"That internalised misogyny that you see that women display against other women, that's really quite painful to see."

Image source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
Older women are more that twice as likely to blame the victim of sexual assault on drinking and short skirts than young women

The Fawcett Society study is based on a survey of 8,000 people, roughly divided equally between men and women.

The Sounds Familiar report suggests that 30% of women aged 18-34 would also "totally or partially to blame" a drunk woman wearing a short skirt if they were sexually assaulted.

Older women are even more likely to blame sexual assault victims.

Among over-65s, 55% of women would blame the victim, versus 48% of men, the study suggests.

Sam Smethers says that the minority of people who hold these views have "a drag effect on our society, [and] are holding us all back with their hostile, negative attitudes".

She adds that blame culture prevails because "it's what's been normalised in our culture: that women fundamentally are the ones responsible".

She says people have got to "understand that it's nothing to do with what the woman wears or how she behaves - it's all about what the perpetrator does".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
These American women took action when they were unhappy with misogyny in the US election - Sam Smethers says that you should "get involved"

Sam Smethers says people have to make their voices heard if they want attitudes to change, starting with the women's march in London on Saturday.

"Get involved, join the campaign, join an organisation, get involved in your university or school societies... get out there and start to make that change."

But she says the government can do more, too, such as "specific changes like statutory age-appropriate sex and relationships education in our schools".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Women's rights movements have faced many setbacks over the last 150 years, says Sam Smethers

"It's important that we focus on the positives as well, particularly for younger women and younger men, where you're more likely to find people describing themselves as feminists and wanting to see equality."

Women have had many setbacks in the last 150 years of the fight for equality, says Sam, "but they've still come through, and we've fundamentally progressed".

"Fundamentally, there are more people who do want equality for the women in their lives, than there are those who don't."

The Fawcett Society report Sounds Familiar is based on new analysis of a Survation poll of 8,165 UK residents aged 18+ between 30 November and 3 December 2015. Although the report also references a focus group survey with 72 young women and men aged 18 to 25 over spring/summer 2016, the findings mentioned in this article are all based on the original 8,165 person survey.

The final clarification to this article was made on Monday 23 January 2017.

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