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These statistics show the shocking attitudes we still have to assault

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Emily Reynolds
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Attitudes to rape and sexual assault are often still completely outdated – as two new surveys have shown this week.

Two new surveys have shed light on attitudes towards rape, assault, and harassment – and show how outdated misconceptions about what it means to be assaulted still abound in much of the population.

One study, undertaken by polling company Ipso Mori, found that men “greatly underestimate” the level of harassment women face. The other, performed by YouGov for the End Violence Against Women Coalition, found that many people are still “unclear” on what rape actually is.

The first study polled respondents, male and female, across the US and Europe – and found that both men and women consistently underestimated how prevalent harassment is. 

Danish, Dutch and French respondents were the most likely to underestimate harassment, guessing figures 49, 35 and 34 percent lower respectively. In the UK, 68% of women have reported harassment – but only men guessed that the figure was just 46%. 

Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates

“That this survey comes a year after #MeToo, suggests that we have a real problem believing women and taking them seriously,” said Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates in a statement. “That so many women have been brave enough to tell stories with devastating personal consequences to hear that they are still not being believed is very difficult to cope with.”

“We need a critical mass of men to stand up and get involved to tackle this problem and become part of the solution.”

Despite high profile cases, assault is still systematically underestimated

In the End Violence Against Women Coalition study, findings were equally shocking.  

A third of 4000 respondents elt that it “wasn’t rape” if a woman is pressured into sex without physical violence; a third of men also believed that “if a woman flirted on a date it wouldn’t count as rape”, even if she hadn’t explicitly consented. 21% of women believed the same statement. 

A quarter of respondents believed that sex without consent in a long-term relationship is not rape, and a further third believe that women “can’t change their mind” after sex has started. 

“These figures are alarming because they show that a huge proportion of adults in Britain – who make up juries in rape trials – are still very unclear about what rape is,” said Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

“It is known that the vast majority of women who are raped know the person who raped them, but for many people, the most commonly understood scenario is a single violent incident of rape committed by a stranger on a dark street. This could help explain why juries are so reluctant to convict particularly younger men where consent is in question,” she continued. 

“We need an independent end-to-end review of how the police and courts tackle rape, from the first report to sentencing and parole. It’s vital that justice for rape victims is prioritised and we put in place measures to make the system fairer. We also need guaranteed counselling for all rape survivors – and practical and legal help if they choose to report to the police.”

Images: Getty

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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.  

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