A group of Tory students who held a debate asking whether women who dress provocatively are more likely to be victims of sexual assault has been slammed by feminists for "victim blaming".
The Conservative Association at Nottingham University (NUCA) held a debate with the motion: "This house believes that women who dress provocatively are more likely to become victims of sexual assault." Although the motion was defeated by NUCA, the society has been heavily criticised by the Women's Network group at the university.
The poster, which was displayed in the Hall's library
The advertisement was posted on the Women's Network Facebook page, where it became the subject of fierce criticism.
One student, Edith MacLean, wrote: "This poster made me feel sick. Nobody said you shouldn't debate this, but you damn well shouldn't put out advertising that has the power to really upset people.
"The emphasis is on the victim's behaviour, despite the fact there are endless statistics proving that the victim's behaviour/dress/appearance etc make no difference. If somebody wants to rape somebody else, then they will do that, whether they're wearing a bikini or a burka."
The university's Labour club social secretary Beth Clare O'Dell, who attended the debate, told student paper the Tab: "I think the people on the Women’s Network are reading it in a way that they want to read it because its obvious that the poster is not promoting ‘victim blame’ for sexual assault but merely suggesting that if you dress in a provocative manner you might attract more unwanted attention then if you didn’t."
One female student who attended the debate, defended the decision to host the event. The student, who HuffPost UK has decided not to name, told the Women's Network group she had been drugged and assaulted on campus by a taxi driver last year.
She said: "I am obviously opposed to the motion - completely - but perhaps if the women's network offered more support to victims such as myself then the profile of these horrendous incidents would not need to be debated in such a capacity in order to gain awareness.
"There is no doubt in my mind that no one in attendance at that event would go so far as to say that I deserved what happened that night or blame me for it outright.
"I despise victim blaming and cultural attitudes to rape victims - being one myself - but as much as I hate those opinions... they should be entitled to voice them in order than the more educated among them can prove them wrong.
"The result of the debate was overwhelmingly positive and in my view, that outcome is positive for women in general because it shows that most people are rational and do not proportion blame to victims."
Thomas Barlow, chair of the NUCA, told The Huffington Post UK: "We offer a poll to both our members and those who aren't but want to attend the debates the opportunity to suggest a motion. The motion was suggested by a member of another political party and topped the poll.
"We felt like we didn't have the grounds to refuse to discuss the topic because it was obviously very important to other people.
"I got in touch with the person who originally posted the advertisement on the [Women's Network] Facebook group. I asked her to contact me if she had any concerns and she did. I explained the situation to her and why the debate was taking place, inviting her and everyone else from her group to attend, and she was happy with our reasoning."
Neither a representative from the Women's Network nor the student union's women's officer attended the debate.
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