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As Sexual Offences in West Yorkshire Rise By 21% Is Victim-Blaming Banter The Issue?

18/04/2013 13:39 | Updated 16 June 2013

In 2012 the number of sexual offences recorded by West Yorkshire Police rose by 21% from 1946 in 2011 to 2362, according to a Freedom of Information request. The number of rapes recorded increased from 575 to 731. It's estimated that somewhere between 60,000 and 95,000 people are raped every year in England and Wales. However, only about 15,670 of those become recorded crimes and only one in 30 victims of rape will see their rapist convicted. Therefore the actual number of sexual offences that took place in West Yorkshire in 2012 is likely much higher than the already staggering 2362.

When polled only 4% of the British population thought the number of people who are raped each year exceeds 10,000. This is unsurprising when you consider the victim-blaming culture which perpetuates the idea that false accusations are rife and anyone who leaves their house in a skirt is guilty until proven chaste. The Mail Online columnist Liz Jones blamed workplace groping on "flirty women" who are trying to get ahead with the boss. She said: "I can't stand women who flirt far more than I dislike gropers", because as everyone knows being irritating is far worse than committing sexual assault. Liz Jones may as well just left off the last eight words off that sentence.

26% of people think that a woman wearing 'revealing' clothing is partially or even totally responsible for her own sexual assault, a rape survivor was accused of 'intimidating' her unnamed rapist and a girl who had been drugged, raped and filmed was blame for allowing her "drunken decisions [to] ruin innocent lives". When attempting to prosecute your rapist leads to such gems as "Remember kids, if you're drunk/slutty at a party, and embarrassed later, just say you got raped!" it does not beg the question, who would lie about being raped? It instead asks; what woman would risk leaving the house?

21% of the recorded crimes in West Yorkshire affected victims aged 17-25. According to research by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics, of the 19 cases of convicted rapists being released with cautions 16 were aged 17 or younger. Hidden Marks, the nationwide report carried out by the National Union of Students investigating female students' experiences of "harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault", found that one in seven had experienced serious physical or sexual assault. Despite this only 4% of students who had been assaulted reported it to their institution and only 10% went to the police. 50% said they felt ashamed or embarrassed and 43% thought they would be blamed.

With female students at university expected to laugh along with sexist rape jokes masquerading as 'banter', dress up for "Slag 'n' Drag" club nights and rape victim-themed fancy dress parties it's easy to see why 43% of sexually-assaulted students thought they would be blamed for their attack. A male student who spoke to The Independent said, "Flatmate quit lacrosse team when given team 'rules' stating that members don't date - that was what rape was for."

Unilad.com, a British website for male students which boasts 8000 hits a day and features articles such as "5 Places To Have A Wee After A Night Out", was temporarily shut down earlier in the year after a 'joke' encouraging rape received condemnation. "If the girl you've taken for a drink... won't spread for your head, think about this mathematical statistic, 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds", they said. In response to the website's subsequent apology a commenter named Adam said, "Rape only happens because lasses can't handle the banter". Research published in the British Journal of Psychology in December 2011 showed people could not reliably tell the difference between interviews with convicted rapists and quotes from 'lads' mags'. The participants even rated the lads' mags as more derogatory than the comments from the rapists.

With around 69,000 women and 9,000 men being assaulted each year and only 1,070 convictions; there is a serious problem with the way rape is viewed. A teenage girl who was raped by a 49 year old man was described by the judge as having "let herself down badly", when a couple in America were charged with propositioning a 13 year old girl for sex an internet commenter said, "you'd be amazed at what some 13-year-olds are capable these days" and last month an Australian radio show host asked a woman who had been sexually abused between the ages of 6 and 16 if it was "in any way" her fault and whether or not she, at 6 years old, had been "provocative". Rape jokes are a serious issue when they undermine the victim's self-confidence, prevent the reporting of sexual assault and lead to the blaming of victims for being too 'sexily' dressed, too drunk or just making the age-old mistake of being too female.