Rape Myths: Exploring Gendered Norms, Culture and Context to Promote Understandings

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:55
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ravinder BARN, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
Ráchael POWERS, University of South Florida, USA
Papia SENGUPTA, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Research and anecdotal evidence into the crime of rape continues to suggest the persistence, and powerful impact of the existence of rape myths throughout the world. Such myths may exist at a number of different levels in society from individual beliefs to how systems perceive and respond to victims and perpetrators (Stern Report 2010, Smith & Skinner 2012). Much of the focus of extant literature has been on the criminal justice system, and support and provision for the victims (Westmorland & Gangoli 2012). Within such literature, there is evidence of the existence of rape myths which attribute blame onto the victim (Ellison and Munro 2009, Barn and Kumari 2015). So – beliefs such as ‘the majority of rape allegations are false’, or that ‘the majority of rapes are committed by strangers’ are not uncommon. Some researchers have asserted that rape myths can create cultural norms that may perpetuate sexual violence against women (Burt 1980). Research carried out in the USA suggests that men are more likely to demonstrate high levels of rape myth acceptance (Aronowitz et al 2012). In Britain and in India, we lack similar research evidence to develop nuanced understandings.

This paper draws upon a new study that sought to explore the persistence of rape mythology among university students. Through a range of mixed-methods, a total of almost 500 students contributed to the data collection for this study. An analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data help promote understandings in a range of key areas including consent, victim-blaming, help-seeking, gender equality, and social justice. These themes are discussed within the framework of gendered norms, culture and conext. The paper also discusses the role of higher education institutions as sites that could help shape prevention and policy responses in challenging gender-based violence across the globe.