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A third (33%) of people in Britain think it isn’t usually rape if a woman is pressured into having sex but there is no physical violence.

Around one in 10 people aren’t sure or think it usually or definitely isn’t rape if a man has sex with a woman who is very drunk or asleep

A third of men believe a woman can’t change her mind after sex has started

40% think it is never or usually not rape to remove a condom without a partner’s consent

A third of men think if a woman has flirted on a date it generally wouldn’t count as rape, even if she hasn’t explicitly consented to sex (compared with 21% of women).

Almost a quarter (24%) think that sex without consent in long-term relationships is usually not rape

Major YouGov survey for EVAW found people in Britain are unclear on what rape is and the law on sexual violence. The survey of around 4,000 people across Great Britain examines why rape is still so difficult to tackle at a time when reports to police are increasing massively.

Research, with almost 4,000 respondents, shows a worrying confusion both about what rape is, and how much harm rape does. Read the full report and data tables.

Many people can’t identify rape and in some cases the public’s view doesn’t match the laws on rape

97% of people believe it’s definitely rape, and therefore illegal, if a stranger forces themselves on a woman in a park at night. But that number drops to 89% of people who are sure that it is rape if a man has sex with a woman who is very drunk or asleep. That means around one in ten aren’t sure (5%) or think it usually or definitely isn’t rape (6%).

Most people are raped by someone they know – the vast majority of reports are ‘acquaintance’ rape. But, there is a lot of confusion about this, especially amongst men

A third (33%) of the men we asked didn’t think it could usually be considered rape if the woman had flirted on a date then changed her mind (compared with 21% of women). The same number also believe a woman can’t change her mind after sex has started.

Rape in marriage and long-term relationships is still not accepted as a serious offence by many

Almost a quarter (24%) of the people we asked thought that in most cases it isn’t rape if non-consensual sex occurs within a long-term relationship.

Rules about consent, whether it is coerced and what is being consented to, are not known

33% think that sex which happens without consent, but where there is no physical violence, isn’t really rape.

It is extremely worrying that ‘stealthing’ (removing a condom without their partner’s consent) is not understood as rape – 19% think this is never rape, and 21% think that this would not normally be rape with some exceptions.

Generations are divided about rape and consent – older people are much less likely to agree non-consensual sex is rape

More than a third (35%) of over 65s we asked think that in most cases it isn’t rape to have non-consenting sex with your wife or partner, compared to just 16% of 18-24s. 42% of over 65s generally think that in most cases if a woman changes her mind halfway through but the sex continues, it isn’t rape compared with just 22% of the 25-49s. This generational difference is concerning because many of the cases being reported to the police are younger women who have a clear view of consent, which may not be shared by many of the people who make up juries.

The research also asked what people think should be and actually is in place to support women if they are raped:

60% of people think that free counselling services are available to victims of rape.

Urgent review

EVAW are calling for an independent end-to-end review of how the police and courts tackle rape, from the first report to sentencing and parole. It’s vital that justice for rape victims is prioritised and we put in place measures to make the system fairer. We also need guaranteed counselling for all rape survivors – and practical and legal help if they choose to report to the police.


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