'Alarming' Numbers Of Brits Don't Know What Constitutes Rape, Study Finds

Rachel McGrath

An “alarming” number of Brits are unsure what constitutes rape, a new YouGov survey has found. 

The report, which surveyed nearly 4,000 people, found 33% of those polled think it “isn’t usually rape” if a woman is pressured into having sex, but there is no physical violence. 

A third of men also think sex would not count as rape if a woman has flirted on a date, even if she has not explicitly consented to sex – a viewpoint shared by 21% of woman. 

A third of men also believe a woman can’t change her mind after sex has started, while 24% think sex without consent in a long-term relationship is usually not rape. 

More than 95% of people believe it is definitely rape if a stranger forces themselves on a woman in a park at night, but 3% admit to being unsure on this. 

If a woman is very drunk or asleep when a man has sex with her, 6% of people say it definitely isn’t rape, while one-in-10 aren’t sure. 

The report was commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition and their co-director, Rachel Krys, points out the figures are particularly worrying as members of the public play crucial roles as jurors in rape trials. 

“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,” Krys said.

“This could help explain why juries are so reluctant to convict particularly younger men where consent is in question.”

Women's Aid protesters 

Krys also said there has been ”a huge increase in the number of women reporting rape and sexual violence to the police and seeking support from specialist rape support organisations”.

“Yet as a society we are failing to respond to this call for help, and this year the number of cases being taken forward by police and the courts fell,” the campaigner added.

The organisation has called for “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,” Krys said. “We also need guaranteed counselling for all rape survivors – and practical and legal help if they choose to report to the police.”

The YouGov survey also revealed a generational divide in attitudes to rape and consent, with 35% of over-65s stating that isn’t rape if you have non-consenting sex with a wife or partner, compared to 16% of people aged 16-24. 

It also highlights the public’s attitude to stealthing – the illegal practice of a man removing a condom during sexual intercourse, without explicitly requesting permission from his sexual partner to do so. 

Of those who completed the survey, 40% did not think doing this constitutes rape. 

Despite a leap in the number of rape reports to the police (41,186 offences were recorded in 2016/17, compared to 16,374 in 2012/13) the number of rape charges has fallen to its lowest number in a decade. 

Crown Prosecution Service boss Max Hill previously defended the decline, stating that he doesn’t think it is a “long-term trend”.

Speaking on Radio 4′s Today Programme in November, he said: “My prosecutors are working harder in conjunction with the police to improve file quality, to improve decision making, and therefore to drive down any problems later on in relation to disclosure.”

  • Rape Crisis services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999
  • Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898

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