Significant Numbers of Irish Blame Women for Rape

notinvitation.jpgA lot of what I’ve been writing about lately seems to fall under the category of wholly unsurprising and yet still utterly depressing. Here’s another one for the files:

Just like in the good old U.S. of A. (and Australia), a new poll shows that in Ireland, large numbers of citizens think that women are at least “partially responsible” for rape (note: this is a cached page. The Irish Examiner, which helped conduct the study and has the most comprehensive info about the results, is currently experiencing problems with his website. I’ll put the proper link in later if I notice the page is back up).

* More than 30% think a victim is some way responsible if she flirts with a man or fails to say no clearly.

* 10% of people think the victim is entirely at fault if she has had a number of sexual partners.

* 37% think a woman who flirts extensively is at least complicit, if not completely in the wrong, if she is the victim of a sex crime.

* One in three think a woman is either partly or fully to blame if she wears revealing clothes.

* 38% believe a woman must share some of the blame if she walks through a deserted area.

The results also show that defence barristers, looking to swing the deciding three members in every 12-person jury, can exploit misgivings in certain demographics about the perceived responsibility of female victims.

Dramatic differences in empathy towards victims based on age and social class are revealed. Gender, however, had little impact.

In every category, widowed, divorced and separated people took the harshest view on the role of the female victim, compared with married or cohabiting couples.

The results of the poll support the results of the ground-breaking Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report in 2002, which found 15% of the population believed a raped woman was not an innocent victim.

A few notes are necessary, here.

Despite highly aggravating and extensive searching, I’ve been unable to find the raw data from the poll, and can only assume that it has not been officially published yet (if you’ve seen it, please let me know). This leaves me scratching my head at what is being promoted as the most significant result:

One in four people believe women who have been raped are partly to blame for the crime because of how they dressed, their sexual history or how much they had to drink.

Clearly, almost all of the more specific statistics came out with results higher than 25%, and how the one in four figure came about, I do not know. None of the articles I’ve come across offer an explanation, and until/unless I can find the full poll results, I can only assume that it is some sort of average. It’s also possible that they posed the more broad question and got a one in four answer, but when the questions got more specific, more people were willing to place blame.

RTE News has slightly differing statistics, so I’m not entirely sure of the accuracy. They do, however, offer up some additional information:

25% believed a woman who was drunk and took illegal drugs was either partly or fully to blame.

The survey also found that adults under the age of 25 were far more likely to blame a raped woman than people aged 25 to 44.

But with regards to age demographics, the Examiner had this to say:

Ms O’Malley Dunlop said although the SAVI report used broader definitions, she had hoped attitudes to sex crime were improving since 2002.

The Irish Examiner/Red C poll provided some hope in this regard because younger people were far less likely to say a female rape victim was accountable if she acted in a certain way.

So, there are two possibilities. The first is that RTE is simply wrong. The other is that both sources are correct, because the numbers for the over 44 age demographic were just so significantly higher that factoring in the under 25s still resulted the younger demographic being less likely to blame victims.

If the under 25 age demographic is more likely to blame victims, I’d say that we’re in trouble. One could presume that the demographic includes many young college students who are likely to wise up in the future, and that’s an optimistic thought. But though victim-blaming has certainly never gone away, it does seem to be enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity. The “modesty movement,” abstinence-only education — both which teach that women are the gatekeepers of sex and it’s their job to modify behavior to keep the sexual appetites of men in check — the “gray rape” propaganda, the new brigade of women willing to spout anti-feminist drivel . . . the list goes on.

It’s worth noting in this discussion that there was another aspect to the poll — public perceptions on reporting and conviction rates for rape. And perceptions were rather off.

TWO thirds of people have ungrounded confidence in the justice system’s ability to convict rapists with just 15% of respondents correctly predicting, even in broad terms, the number of reports of rape dealt with by the gardaí annually.

These are the findings of an Irish Examiner/Red C survey which asked people how many allegations of rape are made to gardaí every year and what percentage of these lead to perpetrators being jailed. Across all age groups and demographics people believed 26% of men who are reported as rapists go on to be to be convicted. Official statistics for 2006 show less than 10% of Garda reports led to a somebody being declared guilty — one third of those surveyed by Red C guessed this correctly.

On average, adults believed 833 reports of rape were made to gardaí every year.

Strangely, 12% of adults under the age of 25 estimated more than 4,000 cases of rape are presented to the police in a 12-month period.

The most recent Garda Annual Report showed the actual figure was 340 — with an annual average of 342 since the turn of the century. Ireland has the lowest conviction rate for rape in Europe and it suffers from a level of attrition which the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report in 2002 showed 8% of sexually assaulted women tell the gardaí. This is further complicated by the often dramatic changes in official figures tracking rape offences.

It doesn’t take a big leap of logic to assume that public attitudes towards rape which hold victims responsible might have a bit to do with the very low conviction and reporting rates. One also has to wonder whether the victim-blamers might change their tune if they knew the truth, or simply be pleased.

Look, the results clearly suck. That such large portions of the population blame victims is bad news. But in all pessimistic and depressing honesty, I’m surprised that they aren’t higher. The amount of disgusting comments about rape that I receive and delete is likely not an accurate measuring stick, as women-haters flock to feminist blogs. But anecdotally in my own life, I hear and have heard a hell of a lot of victim-blaming, and even more rape apologism.

I also find it interesting, surprising and hopeful that more people were willing to blame a woman for rape if she walked somewhere alone at night than if she dressed provocatively, has had many sexual partners and even if she failed to clearly say no. The differences aren’t necessarily monumental, and the numbers are hardly anything to celebrate over, anyway. But they were the opposite of what I expected. It makes me wonder if the concept of women being responsible for rape is shifting more towards “women have a responsibility to take precautions to avoid rape” and away from “she did X so she deserved it and it wasn’t even really rape.” Both are obviously and inarguably disturbing — but I’d say that one is far more dangerous than the other. And if my musing are correct, it’s the one that the Irish are tilting away from. Of all options, I would expect the “failed to clearly say no” category to be the most popular for victim-blaming, and significantly so — that it’s not could also suggest that the concept of enthusiastic consent is finally catching on.

Your thoughts?

0 thoughts on “Significant Numbers of Irish Blame Women for Rape

  1. Feminist Avatar

    In Scotland, when they carried out this survey, they discovered that a significant percentage of school-children blamed women who were drunk or dressed provocatively for rape. They also said that they thought women were to blame in most instances. The results were quite shocking and led to a big social discussion about what we are teaching children in school and a campaign to re-educate them. It may well be that the same thing is being seen in the under 25 category in Ireland.

    My, totally unscientific theory, is that we do not talk to young people about rape, so that they have very confused messages that come from popular culture. As they get older, they get informed or perhaps come to realise that real life and real women are much more complex than the stereotypes of tv.

  2. sara

    Is there any gender breakdown on those responses? I’d love to see how female responses differ from males.

    Fucking assholes.

  3. Cara Post author

    Sara, I’m sure that there is, in the raw data that doesn’t seem to be available. But the article says that gender had “little impact,” which actually doesn’t surprise me very much. I came to terms with the fact that significant numbers of victim-blamers are female a long time ago.

  4. Andrew

    Hey Cara, I saw this on another website (which you contributed to for a short stint) and wondered what your take on it would be.

    I’m Irish, been here all my life, and I’m really surprised with these results. I don’t think the Irish are angles by any stretch, but there is a very big gap between the older and younger generations. The fact that the younger under 25’s victim blame is jaw dropping to me.

    I can only say we are hopefully in a state of transition and we are leaving this behind, but here we have alot of things going for us (no creationism in schools, I had a decent sex ed, and similar). So hopefully the positives out wiegh the negatives.

  5. Paul

    My cousin Michelle said this when talking to me about something else:

    “A lot (and remember people often under-report their more odious views in surveys) of victim blamers and rape apologists are female sadly enough. Also, verbal abuse and even physical abuse knows no gender boundaries and females can be and become the worst bullies that even in your wildest dreams you could not possibly conceive. The movies ‘Heathers’ and ‘Mean Girls’ are not that far removed from real life.”

  6. Feminist Avatar

    I think that women often blame rape victims, because that means that rape is something that can be controlled. It is a scary realisation to think that you cannot control whether or not some man chooses to have sex with you. For many women’s peace of mind, they would rather hold onto an idea that that sort of thing happens to ‘other’ people; people who then need to be defined.

    I think this is more pronounced amongst young people, and especially young girls, because they have not yet faced lesser forms of discrimination based on their gender that make them realise that the world doesn’t distinguish them from other women. Women are not immune to the social messages that say women are less than human or ‘other’; they just know that it doesn’t apply to them personally. To realise that in the eyes of the world you are just a woman like all those other women who you make such an effort to define yourself in opposition to is quite scary, and perhaps not something that happens when you are young.

  7. Thaedydal

    Ireland never had the swinging 60s or 70s due to the strangle hold the catholic church has had on this country.

    Contraception was not legal until 1985.
    Is a bit I wrote about the rates of reported assualt and the sicking lack of prosecution in Ireland where I live.

  8. judgesnineteen

    “Women are not immune to the social messages that say women are less than human or ‘other’; they just know that it doesn’t apply to them personally.”

    I completely agree. That’s how I explain all these female anti-feminists to myself: they don’t think they’re talking about themselves when they talk about how horrible women are. The rest of your argument, more specifically about rape, makes a lot of sense, too.

  9. konstanze

    Across all age groups and demographics people believed 26% of men who are reported as rapists go on to be to be convicted. Official statistics for 2006 show less than 10% of Garda reports led to a somebody being declared guilty — one third of those surveyed by Red C guessed this correctly.

    I wonder if they asked specifically about false convictions. Perceptions tend to be pretty inflated in this area.

  10. Pingback: Rape myths, rape myth acceptance, and community perceptions of victims of sexual violence — Hoyden About Town

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