Study: ‘rape victims often at fault’

One in five Swedes thinks that a woman who is raped only has herself to blame if she dresses provocatively, doesn’t fight back, or is drunk at the time of the attack.

On International Women’s Day, human rights group Amnesty International asked 2,600 people in Sweden about their opinions towards rape.

More than 96 percent of those surveyed thought that rape is a large or very large problem.

Most respondents don’t think that a woman is at fault if she’s been raped.

But that as many as 20 percent of those polled placed at least partial responsibility on the rape victim on the basis of her behavior and actions concerns Amnesty.

“The results are really something to be worried about,” said Amnesty Sweden’s women’s rights expert Katarina Bergehed to The Local.

“Even if Sweden is known for setting an example when it comes to gender equity, there is still important work that needs to be done.”

Young people between 15 and 25-years-old, as well as people over 66-years-old, are the most inclined to think that a woman is at least partially to blame for being raped. The same subgroups are also more likely to think that extenuating circumstances can explain a man’s behavior accused of rape.

Amnesty believes the results beg further questions about gender stereotypes related to women’s and men’s sexuality.

“In particular we need to work more with young people,” said Bergehed.

“These are really important topics and there are many, many young people in Sweden who have never discussed them with anyone.”

The human rights group has backed a demand that sexual education should be mandatory in teacher training. While Sweden was one of the first countries to introduce mandatory sexual education in schools, Bergehed said that the quality of the lessons varies a great deal.

“We talk about the importance of addressing youth, but if the adults in charge of educating them are themselves not properly trained to teach the subject, that solution won’t be effective,” she said.

Bergehed cautions against drawing any sweeping conclusions about Swedish society based on what was admittedly not a scientific study, but she believes the study does say something important about people’s attitudes toward rape. Her organization is calling for the government to consider a national campaign to raise awareness about rape and sexual violence.

“We hope the results will spark a debate and inspire others to conduct further research on the subject in Sweden,” she said.