Rape: Myths & Realities
Sandy Brindley
Rape Crisis Scotland
0141 331 4182
Prevalence of rape & sexual
Police statistics 2008-2009
• 963 rapes & attempted rapes
British Crime Survey 2000
• estimated between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8 women
report to the police
NSPCC survey, 2009
• 1 in 3 girls in a relationship have experienced
unwanted sexual accts
Myths & misconceptions about
sexual violence
Myth: Rape generally is carried out by a stranger, with
significant additional violence involved
Fact: Most rapes are carried out by men known to the woman.
Around 54% of rapes are carried out by partners/former
partners. Only 17% were by strangers (British Crime Survey
Myth: Women will be hysterical immediately after an attack
Fact: Some women are. However, for other women their
reactions can be counter-intuitive in that they may appear
very calm (controlled reaction to shock)
Myth: Women frequently make malicious allegations of rape
Fact: There is no evidence that false reports of rape are any
higher than for any other crime
Reactions to rape & sexual assault
Feelings of powerlessness, feeling out of control
Fear, nightmares and sleeplessness
Feelings of shame and guilt
A need to carry on as if nothing has happened
Panic attacks
Eating problems
Abuse of drugs, alcohol etc
Changes in relationships
Myths & misconceptions
Myth: If women don’t struggle during a rape, they can’t really mind
what is happening
Fact: While some women do employ verbal
(shouting/screaming) or physical (fighting/kicking) strategies
during an attack, many women talk about freezing and being
unable to move or scream. This is a natural reaction to a
traumatic event.
Myth: Some women lead men on by dressing or behaving
provocatively and have only themselves to blame if things go
further than they wanted
Fact: This is based on the notion that men have uncontrollable
sexual urges, which are provoked by women’s behaviour. Men
can and do control their sexual behaviour, as women do.
Societal Attitudes to Rape &
Sexual Assault
Scottish Executive research (2008)
• 24% of people think a woman can be at least partly responsible if she is drunk at the
time of the attack
• 27% thought a woman bore some responsibility if she wore revealing clothing
• 29% say there should be some burden of responsibility if a woman is flirting
• 15% think rape can be a woman’s fault if she is known to have had many sexual
Amnesty research (2005):
• over a third of people believe a woman is totally or partially responsible for being
raped if she has behaved in a ‘flirtatious’ manner
• 28% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she is drunk
• 27% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she is wearing ‘sexy or revealing’
• 25% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she has had many sexual partners
Zero Tolerance research (1998)
• 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls thought it was acceptable for a man to hit a woman or
force her to have sex in certain circumstances
Criminal Justice Responses to
Sexual Offences
Significant under-reporting of rape
-estimated between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8 women report to the police
(British Crime Survey, 2000)
Reasons women give rape crisis centres for not reporting include:
-fear that she won’t be believed or will be blamed for what happened
-she doesn’t feel strong enough to go through police and legal
-she is scared about what would happen in court, particularly during
cross-examination by the defence
2008/2009 statistics, Scottish Executive
821 reported rapes, 83 prosecutions, 25 convictions
10.1%% of reported rapes lead to a prosecution
3% of reported rapes lead to a conviction
30% of rapes which are prosecuted lead to a conviction
Barriers faced by survivors during
legal process (1)
Feeling disbelieved / blamed / not being taken seriously
Fear and distress at prospect of giving evidence in court
Lack of information and control over role on legal proceedings- can
reinforce disempowerment experienced by survivors; survivors report
feeling subject to a process they do not feel a part of
Length of time between reporting to police, precognition and case coming to
court- very distressing for survivor, particularly if accused out on bail
Memory gaps, due to delay in case coming to court, blocking or repression
as coping mechanisms- makes it difficult to recall details of attack as
specified in statement
Barriers faced by survivors during
legal process (2)
Lack of recognition or understanding of survival or coping mechanisms that may present as
counter-intuitive to those not experienced in impact of rape/ trauma eg woman returning to
work straight after incident
‘Retraumatisation- feeling raped/ violated again
Embarrassment; finding it difficult to find language to describe what happened; feelings of
shame, feeling ‘dirty’ or ‘stupid’; feelings of self-blame and self-doubt
Impact of societal attitudes- reinforcing survivor’s own negative feelings towards herself
Fear of being ‘ripped to shreds’ during cross-examination
Use of sexual history and character evidence
What might help improve complainers’
experience of the justice system?
• Improved perception of police attitudes
• Explanations as to why certain questions are being asked and/or
why she is being asked to repeat aspects of her story
• Feeling that all possible avenues of evidence are being explored
(forensic, other witnesses, CCTV etc)
• Use of preliminary statements (ie giving initial police statement but
delaying full statement until following day after complainer has had a
chance to go home / bath / get some sleep)
• More information
• Guaranteed access to female medical examiner
• Statement taking outwith police stations (e.g. in rape crisis centre)
What might help improve complainers’
experience of the justice system?
• Vigorous implementation of legal provisions
restricting the use of sexual history and
character evidence in sexual offence trials
• More information & more control over
• Use of special measures (esp. having supporter
• Meeting prosecutor before trial
• More interventionalist culture within courtroom