Sexual consent survey is a new chance to debate attitudes and law

17 Nov

The Evening Standard today published an article titled ‘Boris Johnson: my shock over young people who cross the line from consent to rape’.

The piece refers to a survey commissioned by the Havens, a service for survivors of sexual assault and rape in London, where 1012 people aged 18-50 were asked on their opinions on consensual sex and sexual assault.  From what I gather the results were published last February, but this renewed press interest coincides with the Havens’ new ‘Where is your line?’ campaign.

Here is an example of one set of results from the survey:

How many people have actually been in the situation of being made to have sex when they didn’t want to?

  • One out of five adults in London have been in a situation where they were made to have sex when they didn’t want to (20%)
  • More women than men have been made to have sex when they didn’t want to (23% vs. 15%)
  • More bisexual adults have been made to have sex when theythey didn’t want to than any other sexuality (35% vs. 18% of people who are heterosexual)

If we put the criticisms to one side, namely that the survey lacks appraisal and that the actual questions asked are not included in the report summary, it still proves a valuable reminder to consider the way we think about sexual assault and consent.  Being able to speak only from a heterosexual female perspective, I think there will doubtless be a lot of girls and women who will be feeling the Haven’s Wake Up to Rape survey results deep in the pit of their stomachs.

In fact I think it’s safe to say most of us at least know someone who’s been through it, and perhaps even know someone who’s gone through the utter humiliation of going to court, only to have the case dropped and their assaulter walk free.

Having worked with the group Women Against Rape and hearing countless testimonials from incredibly strong women during their ‘The Rape of Justice – who’s guilty?’ event, I’d like to think that the results of this survey will at least go some way in further opening discussion on the issue, and waking us up to the reality and scale of the problem of acknowledging and reporting the issue in the first place.  Police resources are not only severely lacking, but it seems there remains a huge amount of sexism in the dealing of these cases.

Here are a few quotes from the survey:

“The rape conviction rate here is the lowest in Europe. I wouldn’t want to relive the experience in court, and have to be in the same room as my assaulter, considering the odds of getting a conviction are so low. Prison time is so low even if a conviction”

“I would be afraid of being demoralised by the police and society during court proceedings, why bother when they are just going to get off the charges anyway?”

“I am not sure whether I would be taken seriously and the follow through procedure would be thorough”

“Rape victims rarely get justice”

The survey is clearly laid out and written in very understandable terms, so I’d recommend at least a quick skim read.

Resources:

A 2005 Amnesty International report New poll finds a third of people believe women who flirt partially are responsible for being raped

Women Against Rape

Reclaim the Night

The Havens

Recently in the news:

BBC: Met Police rape unit Sapphire detective suspended

The Guardian: DPP apologises to woman failed by courts after sexual assault

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