THE BLOG

Rape: What Can Britain Do About It?

06/01/2014 14:17 GMT | Updated 08/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Rape is an issue that has many myths attached. Warnings are given to kids to protect them from strangers, yet rape occurs primarily by an attacker that is known to the victim. Particularly, domestic rape is far more prevalent than the general public would believe.

This also leads on to a view that it is only men that commit rape, and only against women. Although this is far the most common occurrence, women do rape men and women, and men are raped by other men too. These incidents are less common but this is partly to do with men always being poor at reporting concerns, even for small health issues. This highlights the huge taboo that encircles the issue of rape and often leads to victims being entrapped in an isolated bubble of mental turmoil. Secondly, there seems to be a stigma attached to rape so that victims are blamed for putting themselves 'at risk', missing the whole issue that rape involves a person forcibly committing sexual acts against their victim's will. Being drunk or wearing certain clothes does not present a person as an open invitation for sex. It's like saying that a rhino's horn is up for grabs for 'medical cures' just because it's there.

This misplaced blame is evidenced when surveys show 30% of people would assign an element of blame to a woman that was raped if she was drunk, 26% if she wore 'sexy or revealing' clothing and 22% if she had many sexual partners previously. Even Eminem made fun of that notion of having the right to have sex with a drunken woman in his song Guilty Conscience. Let's be clear here - the victims of sexual violence are not responsible for what happened to them: the perpetrators are.

However, if you're from a mid to high socio-economic class, you'll be fine so don't worry. Wrong! Victims AND perpetrators of rape come from all communities, cultures and ages. It's not just in relation to adults but to children too, as the Jimmy Saville and Ian Watkins cases have made clear. Does it really need a UK case of celebrity adult rape or the Delhi gang rape for society to understand and address the reality of rape in the UK too? There are higher rates of gender based violence and sexual abuse in other countries, but that doesn't make it any less of a pressing issue that needs radical change to be confronted politically, by the media and socially in the pub and street.

Unfortunately, as humans, if we have a notion that a crime can be gotten away with, then the incidence of that crime will be reflected in that belief; a virtue all too common place in sexual violence. Initiatives to highlight this social acceptance of sexual abuse and harassment that occurs daily have been brought to everyone's attention by Everyday Sexism Project, Hollaback! and Object, with many more out there. This message needs to continue to be talked about and the word spread by word of mouth and social media to discourage such damaging behaviour. It will help victims to seek help too for the physical and mental help they may need.

The government needs to do more to discourage the perpetuation of social acceptance of rape and sexual harassment in media, advertising, children's toys, clothing and music videos. Rape as a 'joke' must be ended. One of the best ways for the UK to keep up the drive to change society for the better is by educating the people. The lack of sex and relationship education challenging the afore mentioned issues is paramount in this drive as an area where significant progress can be made. The evidence is overwhelming that this will help and yet it is met with such hostility and disregard by the education system and by parliament. Efforts to change this Victorian outlook must continue. It is truly rare for anyone to come up with an idea for themselves. It is education that is the major influence in how we act and represents the best way to reduce the appalling statistics of 69,000 female, 9,000 male rape victims per year in just England and Wales, and the 1 in 20 children that are sexually abused across Britain.