Rape: are attitudes getting worse?

It’s probably a generational thing, but a lot of conversations I have with my parents these days consist of whether “things are getting better … or worse”.

Not exactly an easy topic to pin down! There’s always a danger that these fireside chats will descend into a sub-Daily Mail column-style rant about supposedly declining “manners” and “standards”. John Terry versus Sir Stanley Matthews. Respectful 1950s kids with their short-back-and-sides versus drunken teenage “yobs” terrorising town centres. Etc, etc.

As a typical Amnesty type, I tend to argue that things have generally got better in the last 50 years. Take an obvious example – about which there’s an interesting article in today’s Guardian: you don’t get sent to prison for being gay any longer. (At least in the UK, you don’t).

But I’ll admit, news of today’s poll of attitudes to rape gave me pause. In 2005 Amnesty found that about a third of the UK public believed that a women was at least partially responsible for being raped if she’d been “flirtatious” (whatever that is), had worn “sexy” clothing (whatever they are) or was drunk (again, what exactly does that mean anyway?)

So, hearing the BBC correspondent Danny Shaw on the radio this morning saying that in the half decade since Amnesty’s poll “attitudes seem to have hardened” is not a pleasant thing to wake up to in the morning. Indeed, the poll, commissioned by Haven, is called Wake Up To Rape, and it’s yet another … er, wake up call to the government to get on with their promised “integrated strategy” to combat all forms of violence against women.

I expect the rape poll story will serve to entrench my parents’ gloomy view that everything’s going to the dogs. I don’t think they’re right but an increasing tendency to blame women for being raped hardly supports my case. Yet …. if the government were to aggressively challenge these disgusting attitudes as part of a fully-fledged integrated strategy to combat violence against women – that would.

Next time I’m in my mum and dad’s kitchen I’ll try to steer the conversation onto the need for an integrated strategy …


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