Britain in "moral collapse" over rape?

Conservative M.P. says there's a widespread belief that treating women like objects is "cool."


Tracy Clark-Flory
November 15, 2007 5:50AM (UTC)

Britain is in "moral collapse" as evidenced by widely held attitudes toward rape, according to David Cameron, a member the United Kingdom's parliament. The leader of the Conservative Party is pushing for better, more reliable support for rape victims, and more convictions and longer prison sentences for rapists. "It means doing all we can to help victims, by understanding the harrowing circumstances so they don't feel intimidated when presenting their evidence," said Cameron in a speech given to the Conservative Women's Organisation. "And it means making sure the length of sentence is proportionate to the crime."

He didn't stop there, either -- Cameron argued that a cultural cure must also be found. He cited recent (unnamed and unverified, mind you) studies finding that one in four boys in the U.K. believe they can expect sex from a girl if she's flirtatious, and half of young men think it's OK to rape a women in certain circumstances. These attitudes, and the low conviction rate in rape cases, are a byproduct of a hyper-sexualized society where "it's cool to treat women like sex objects," Cameron said. His solution, though, seems preciously naive: Pressuring the music industry into exercising "their responsibility in how they present female role models."

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Activists are, of course, in support of a multipronged approach, but suggest other ways of addressing this as a cultural crisis. Sheila Coates, policy chair of England and Wale's National Rape Crisis, said the government should fund public service announcements against rape and cover sexual consent in sex-ed classes. "It is important that we talk to children, so that years later when they become jurors, they no longer believe the myths of sexual assault: that women and girls are asking for it if they wear particular clothes, or are out late, or are drinking, that it's all their fault."

If the findings Cameron cited are even remotely accurate, that's going to be an uphill (think Mt. Everest) journey.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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