One-third believe victims of rape are to blame if they were drunk

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The Independent Online

One in three people believe a woman is partly or completely to blame for being raped if she has been flirtatious, or is drunk, according to new research. More than a quarter also believe a woman is at least partly responsible for being raped if she wears sexy or revealing clothing, a survey of 1,095 British adults found.

Rape support groups described the findings as "appalling" and part of a "sexist blame culture". A second study found that police continued to provide a "patchy" service when they investigated rapes.

Poor police responses and prejudiced attitudes among the public were part of the reason that an estimated 85 per cent of rapes went unreported, and that only about 6 per cent of those recorded by the authorities resulted in a conviction last year.

The public's attitude to certain types of behaviour by women was revealed in a poll, commissioned by Amnesty International, published yesterday.

One in five people think a woman is partly to blame if it is known she has many sexual partners, while more than a third believe she is responsible to some degree if she has clearly failed to say "no" to the man.

Just over a fifth of people said that if a woman was alone and walking in a dangerous or deserted area, she was totally or partly responsible. In each of these scenarios a slightly greater proportion of men than women held these views - except when it came to being drunk, when it was equal. More women (5 per cent) than men (3 per cent) believed that a woman was "totally responsible" for being raped if she was intoxicated. Victim Support, the national charity, urged criminal justice professionals and healthcare workers to "consider how best to educate people about the terrible impact of rape, with a view to changing these attitudes".

The ICM poll also revealed that most of the British population had no idea how many women were raped every year in the United Kingdom.

Almost all, 96 per cent, of respondents said that they either did not know the true extent of rape or believed that it was far lower than the true figure.

Only 4 per cent thought the number of women raped exceeded 10,000. The number of recorded rapes in 2004-05 was more than 12,000 and the 2001 British Crime Survey estimated that just 15 per cent of rapes came to the attention of the police.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said that the poll was part of its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. She added: "It is shocking that so many people will lay the blame for being raped at the feet of women themselves and the Government must launch a new drive to counteract this sexist blame culture." She added: "These findings should act as a wake-up call to the Government to urgently tackle the triple problem of the high incidence of rape, low conviction rates and a sexist blame culture."

The number of recorded rapes of a female in 2004-05 was 12,867, up from 12,345 in 2003-04 - an increase of 4 per cent. The number of convictions for rape of a female in 2004 was 741, up from 666 in 2003.

A separate report by a working group for the Association of Chief Police Officers found that fewer than 10 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales had dedicated rape investigation teams.

It also found that some were not gathering forensic evidence quickly enough. Eight forces were not using early evidence kits, which allow samples to be taken at the scene.

The review was carried out three years after police were given new guidance on investigating rape, to try to increase the number of successful prosecutions.

The progress report found that a number of forces - including the Metropolitan Police, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester - had made significant improvements.