#MeToo victims not helped by ‘alarming’ attitudes to rape, campaigners say

An “alarming” proportion of British adults remain unclear about what constitutes rape, despite the rise of the #MeToo movement, a campaign group has said.

The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition said results from a YouGov survey of nearly 4,000 people highlighted why access to justice is “beyond the reach of many victims”, with “worrying findings” about rape myths.

The research found one-third (33%) of Britons said it would not be rape if there was no sexual violence committed, while 21% of female respondents said it would not generally be considered rape if the victim had flirted on a date, even if she had not explicitly consented to sex.

Rachel Krys, EVAW co-director, said society was “failing to respond to the call for help” prompted by the #MeToo campaign, the international movement which has sought to expose and shame sexual harassment.

The report further reveals:

  • Only 89% of respondents said it would be rape to have sex with someone who was either asleep or too drunk to consent – with 5% saying it was not usually rape, and 1% saying it was never rape

  • Some 11% of respondents believe the more sexual partners a woman has, the less harm she will experience from an attack

  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of people said non-consensual sex within a long-term relationship was not rape

  • One-third of men think a woman cannot change her mind after sex has begun

The figures, taken from 3,922 male and female respondents of varied ages and political persuasions within Britain, also suggested people over the age of 65 were more likely (35%) to think non-consensual sex within a long-term relationship was not rape, compared with 16% of those aged 16-24.

Ms Krys said: “These figures are alarming because they show that a huge proportion of UK adults, who make up juries in rape trials, are still very unclear about what rape is.

“#MeToo has shone a light on the scale of sexual violence, and more women are seeking justice.

“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.”

Campaigners have called for an independent review of how the police and courts tackle rape

Ms Krys said: “This research shows that confusion and myths about rape are still very common, and this could explain why it’s hard for juries to make fair decisions if they don’t understand or agree with our laws on rape.

“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.”

John Worboys prison release
John Worboys prison release

Figures published in September within the Crown Prosecution Service’s Violence Against Women And Girls report of 2017/18 highlighted a 23.1% fall in the number of defendants charged with rape compared with the previous year.

The CPS also denied altering rape prosecution advice to boost conviction rates and take “weak cases” out of the system.