An intoxicated woman invites sexual assault.
That’s what one in five Canadians think, according to a new survey from the Canadian Women’s Foundation released Tuesday.
Roughly 19% of respondents believe women may provoke or encourage sexual assault when they’re drunk; of these, nearly 23% were people between 18 and 34 years old.
“I think it’s really sad. We think we have these educated, progressive, open-minded young people, but we are really socializing them into the same attitudes that all the generations carry, so that’s disappointing,” said Concillia Muonde, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa’s public education co-ordinator.
Education remains key in shattering misconceptions and stereotypes, “using mechanisms that they understand and speaking in a language they understand to challenge the same attitudes that existed before they were born,” Muonde said.
Those beliefs have been around since Sandra Diaz was 18 “and hearing this sort of attitude from my mom giving me a warning, you know, ÔIf you wear that dress, you’ll get raped,’ and thinking that was a very old-fashioned way of thinking,” said Diaz, VP of marketing and communications at the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
“And so, to hear that 18- to 34-year-olds still hold that attitude is so deeply concerning to us.”
The study also found 15% of Canadians believe women can encourage or provoke sexual assault by flirting with a man (20% for age 18-34) and 11% think women can encourage or provoke sexual assault when they wear short skirts (17% for the 18-34 group).
These types of beliefs often lead to victims staying silent and assuming responsibility for the assault.
Two high-profile cases this year have helped bolster awareness around victim-blaming.
“We feel like there’s almost like a swell happening in our community and in the media ever since Rehtaeh Parsons (a Nova Scotia teen who took her own life after months of bullying following an alleged gang rape) and Steubenville (an Ohio case in which two high school football players were convicted of raping a girl at an alcohol-fuelled party),” Diaz said.
With troublesome cases capturing the attention of North Americans, she said, it has “people talking, unafraid, for the first time. So we’re hopeful that we’ve kind of reached that tipping point and that, within our lifetime, we’ll see changes in attitudes,” she said.
For more information, visit canadianwomen.org.