Briefing paper 04/2010, on Havens ‘Wake Up to Rape’ Research report

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Havens ‘Wake Up to Rape’ Research report

18 February 2010
MPA briefing paper 04/2010

This briefing paper has been prepared to inform members and staff. It is not a committee report and no decisions are required.

This briefing provides an overview of the findings of the Havens ‘Wake Up to Rape’ report, and contextualises them with other research findings on rape.

The Havens are London’s sexual assault referral centres, specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted in the last 12 months. There are three Havens in London, based in Camberwell, Paddington, and Whitechapel. They provide specialist services for women, men, and young people, as well as undertake research and provide training.

They are jointly funded by the NHS and MPS, and offer forensic examinations by specially trained doctors, sexual health screening first aid, emotional support and counselling.

This research was commissioned [1] to identify people’s attitudes towards rape and sexual assault so that we could have a better understanding of the emotional barriers which prevent people from being able to access support when they have experienced sexual violence. Researchers sampled 1,061 adults online.

The research found that;

When asked about reporting a sexual assault or rape to the police a significant number of respondents were unsure:

  • Over one in ten claimed they would ‘maybe’ report it to the police (13%)
  • One in twenty admitted they didn’t know (5%)
  • One in fifty respondents were clear that they would not report a case of rape or sexual assault to the police (2%)
  • 79% said yes they would report to the police.

These statistics are somewhat at odds with other research which suggests between 75-95% of rapes are never reported to the police (HMCPS & HMIC, 2007). The British Crime Survey (2001) found that 47,000 adult women were raped in the previous 12 months – reporting figures would certainly not indicate that almost 80% reported this. Indeed recent research indicates [2] about 10% of rapes are reported. The picture in London is that around 2,500 rapes are reported annually in the capital [3], as well as around 5,000 serious sexual offences other than rape.

Members will be aware that reporting of rape and serious sexual offences has risen in London in the last 12-18 months and is currently at a 25% increase [4] on the same time last year.

Reasons for not reporting to the police were:

  • I would be too embarrassed / ashamed of what had happened (55%)
  • I would just want to forget it ever happened (41%)
  • I wouldn’t want to go to court (38%)
  • I would be afraid of repercussions from the assailant (31%)
  • I would be afraid that my family would find out (25%)

Gender and age differences were apparent in the responses.

  • Men are more likely than women to be too embarrassed (62% vs. 53%) and fear repercussions from the assaulter (34% vs. 29%)
  • The 18 to 24 year olds are most likely to choose all reasons for not wanting to approach the police

Over a third of Londoners have been in a situation where they could have been made to have sex when they didn’t want to (34%)

  • Women are twice as likely as men to have been in this situation (40% vs. 20%)
  • Age does not have a significant effect on whether Londoners have been in a situation where they could have been made to have sex and did not want to
  • People who are bisexual are the most likely to have been in this situation (35% vs. 18% of people who are heterosexual)

Frustratingly, this question was not followed by one which queried whether these assaults were indeed reported to the police in the proportions which the first question would indicate.

Attitudes about rape claims seem to support a culture of disbelief:

  • Close to one in five respondents agree with the statement,” most claims of rape are probably not true” (18%)
  • Men are almost twice as likely to take this viewpoint as women (27% vs. 14%)
  • People who are heterosexual are less likely to agree that “most claims of rape are probably not true” (16% vs. 44% of people who are asexual)

People in London are not even sure what can count as rape or who should accept responsibility for it:

  • Close to one in five respondents do not know whether in a committed relationship it is rape when a man makes their partner have sex when they don’t want to (18%)
  • One in ten do not believe it is rape when a man makes their partner have sex when they don’t want to (10%)
  • The older generation are most likely to agree that this situation is in fact rape (76% of 35 to 50 year olds vs. 68% of 18 to 24 year olds)

There are many situations in which some people feel that a person should take responsibility for being raped. Over half (56%) of those surveyed think that there are some circumstances where a person should accept responsibility. Women and young people are more likely to consider victims more responsible. Of those people the circumstances are:

  • Performing another sexual act on them (73%)
  • Getting into bed with a person (66%)
  • Drinking to excess / blackout (64%)
  • Going back to theirs for a drink (29%)
  • Dressing provocatively (28%)
  • Dancing in a sexy way with a man at a night club or bar (22%)
  • Acting flirtatiously (21%)
  • Kissing them (14%)
  • Accepting a drink and engaging in a conversation at a bar (13%)

The findings in relation to public attitudes broadly support a study on attitudes conducted in London by Amnesty International in 2005 [5] which found that roughly a third of people in the UK believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner (34%) wearing sexy or revealing clothing (26%), or has had many sexual partners (22%), or if she was drunk (30%).

The findings also explored the likelihood of ‘taking risks’ [6] in relation to personal safety, such as excessive drinking or taking quiet routes home at night. The summary report itself doesn’t provide commentary around the findings and responses, but an article in the Guardian [7] explored possible reasons for women holding such victim-blaming views, and finally notes that again the focus here is skewed, in the media and in the minds of the public;

So many women reason, albeit probably unconsciously, that if rape victims have done something "wrong" which makes them responsible, they themselves are protected. And while being blamed for your own rape is an incredibly traumatising experience, we forget in this discussion that there would be no victim to blame if there wasn't a rapist committing assault first. Here, we draw ourselves back to where the high rates of victim-blaming begin: the idea that when it comes to rape, women's behaviour is more interesting and important than that of male rapists.


1. Opinion Matters was commissioned by the Havens to conduct the research and produce the report [Back]

2. Women's Resource Centre and Rape Crisis, 2008 survey. [Back]

3. 2,400 in the 12 months leading up to October 2009 [Back]

4. Report coming to SOP 4 March 2010 [Back]

5. Opinion poll commissioned by Amnesty International and conducted by ICM [Back]

6. Rape prevention strategies usually focus on women modifying their behaviour rather than challenging the act of rape itself [Back]

7. Rape: the sinister blame game, Guardian Tuesday 16 February [Back]

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