The blame game

That old horse chestnut has cropped up again: you know the one – ‘isn’t the woman partly to blame for being raped if she’s drunk?’

The topic was kick-started yesterday after authorities overturned the decision to reduce the amount of compensation awarded to a woman who was drunk at the time of her rape. 

The Sun, The Independent, TalkSPORT and the Yorkshire Post were a few among the many media outlets that covered the story, drawing parallels to the opinion poll on rape that Amnesty carried out in 2005.

I am actually struggling to believe that this woman’s compensation was actually cut on that basis.  Just as I was staggered when I first learnt of the results of Amnesty’s 2005 opinion poll that more than one in four people (30 per cent) across the UK think that a woman is partly to blame for being raped if she’s being drinking.

The fact of the matter is that rape is a crime. And the perpetrator – not the victim – ought to be punished for this criminal act.

In comparison to victims of other crimes, rape survivors already have an uneven starting point when taking their case through the criminal justice system. 

As the Leader piece in today’s Independent’s succinctly explained, ‘the most pressing problem when it comes to rape is not female inebriation, but the low conviction rate. And, often, this is a result of the failure of the police to investigate complaints properly, or to collect forensic evidence thoroughly.’

Then to suggest that because the survivor was drinking at the point of attack, the victim is partly to blame is absolutely ridiculous.

As one of my colleagues pointed out this morning, most rapes in the UK are carried out by people the victim knows already.  So surely a woman’s entitled to have a tipple or two with someone he or she feels comfortable with?

I could go on and on about this one really. But the fact of the matter is that there is still a sexist ‘blame culture’ in the UK about this matter, and the Government needs to do so much more to erode this ridiculous notion.

The government needs to adopt an integrated strategy to tackle violence against women on all levels, so that challenging attitudes like the ‘blame culture’ is just one of a series of actions to tackle this issue.  Click here onto the End Violence Against Women website to find out more.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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