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The Revealing Truth about Sexual Assault: Why are clothes still a factor in rape cases?

by Josie Sharp

The clothes we wear are a form of self-expression and identity, yet it seems that over half of the British population believe that if one chooses to wear revealing clothing, they are asking for attention and trouble. 

The polling company ‘D-CYFOR’ completed a survey asking the public if they thought that if women wear less clothing, the likelihood of them experiencing harassment or assault is much higher. This survey was completed by 1104 adults and seen to be accurately representative of the population of the United Kingdom; it showed that 55% of men agreed with the statement and even 2/5th of women did too.


Despite large efforts to dispel this untruth done by the police through awareness campaigns, this myth continues to exist across generations. The circumstances and the subject of rape is often relayed back to the victim, blaming them for their personal choices, rather than fully blaming the perpetrator.


It is a blatant misconception that the clothes women choose to wear affect the likelihood of unwanted sexual attack, as statistics show in that 45% of female rape cases, the perpetrator was their partner or ex-partner and were attacked in their own homes. Whereas only 13% of rape victims blame a stranger; we are much more likely to be sexually attacked by someone we know and trust, this cannot be blamed on a women’s choice of clothing.


The criminal act of rape or sexual assault deals with men’s wish for control and to assert power over women through sexual violence and the misunderstanding of this is a result of generations worth of victim blaming. There is an estimation of 1 million women who have been raped and 38% of women say to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, or by a work-place related person; given the varying rules around uniforms/clothing in the world of work, how is the idea of clothing still being considered as a defining factor in rape cases?


The stigma surrounding the situations women have faced around the circumstances of rape shows the mass misunderstanding around the causations of rape across the entirety of the British population, which needs to change in order to remove the element of clothing and ‘what she chose to wear’ when discussing the reasons and the rate of rape and/or sexual assaults.


Clothes are a means to express ones identity, and should not be shamed even if they are revealing or conservative and we need to aim to no longer shame women for wearing the clothing they feel comfortable in, and instead only blame the instigator.

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