Exclusive

Two thirds of young people think you can't say no after agreeing to sex online, survey finds

26 January 2024, 06:25 | Updated: 26 January 2024, 10:48

Young people have "shocking" misconceptions of rape, research has found.
Young people have "shocking" misconceptions of rape, research has found. Picture: Alamy
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

Young people have "shocking" misconceptions of rape, with more than two thirds of 18-24 year olds believing you cannot withdraw consent in-person after agreeing to have sex with someone online, new research has found.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) found 72% didn't understand that you can say no, after initially saying yes when arranging to meet.

The largest survey of its kind in five years highlighted further alarming false beliefs, with half of young people saying it’s not rape if a victim doesn’t fight back. A further 58% didn’t believe rape can be committed in a relationship or marriage.

Less than half, 46%, recognised that if a man has been drinking or taking drugs, he is still responsible if he rapes someone.

The lead prosecutor for rape and serious sexual offences in England & Wales, Siobhan Blake, told LBC the "harmful assumption" that consent can be given in advance is now "playing out in the digital world".

Ms Blake told LBC: "The law of consent is clear - someone has to have the freedom and capacity to consent at that particular moment in time. It's not possible for another individual to simply assume consent based on previous conversations or behaviours.

"We have to be clear that consent is about consent in the moment."

The survey of more than 3,000 UK adults found that while the public’s accurate understanding of rape has grown over the past 20 years, there has been a "stark regression" of attitudes among young people.

Read more: 'He's got away with murder': Families of Nottingham triple killer Valdo Calocane's victims say 'justice not served'

Read more: Runaway aristocrat’s baby ‘found dead in Lidl bag’ after parents had four other children taken into care, court hears

The End Violence Against Women Coalition said it believes the attitudes are being driven by "the blurring of our online and offline lives".

The charity's director Andrea Simon said it's "not only created new forms of sexual violence, but new ways to blame victims based on our behaviours online".

"It is clear that the rapid, unchecked spread of online misogyny is also driving sympathy for perpetrators and misconceptions about sexual violence among young people," she said.

"This work is an encouraging start to addressing these harmful attitudes."

The CPS said it would use the findings to update it's training and guidance.

Baroness Newlove, Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales.
Baroness Newlove, Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales. Picture: Alamy

Ms Blake continued: "It's really important that we understand what harmful assumptions and misconceptions might be out there so we can call them out for what they are.

"It is quite shocking, and I think it's something we need to reflect on as a society. It's really important that our young people understand where the boundaries are, to help prevent future victims and future offending."

She encouraged victims to come forward, saying "some people might hear this today and realise that something they've not recognised as sexual assault previously was, infact, something they didn't consent to.

"Please still step forward and report. We in the CPS and our colleagues in the police don't believe these harmful assumptions and misconceptions. We know it sometimes takes a while for people to make decisions to step forward, and people sometimes don't understand the law around consent. We will still take your case very seriously."

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said: “This powerful report echoes what survivors tell me: that harmful ‘myths’ and misconceptions persist in our justice system, with serious consequences for survivors and justice. 

“These assumptions also play a part in contributing to excessive and unjustified requests for private victim data in rape investigations. 

“Yet as this important research underscores, these misconceptions are not set in stone; they can be dismantled over time, and that requires government and justice agencies, like the CPS, to lead the way. 

“Victims deserve a system that respects and upholds their rights – and challenges harmful stereotypes.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Jesse Baird and Luke Davies have not been seen since Monday

Police in desperate riverbed hunt for missing TV presenter and boyfriend, as cop ex-lover accused of murder

Yulia Navalnaya

Navalny widow accuses Putin of mocking Christianity for refusing to return body

Volodymyr Zelensky

Western leaders arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Charles has shared a message of support for Ukraine

King Charles hails 'heroism' of Ukrainians as world leaders mark second anniversary of Russian invasion in Kyiv

Junior doctors have gone on strike again

Junior doctors walk out for five-day strike amid long-standing pay row, in latest round of NHS industrial action

Sarah Oliver was killed in the collision

Woman killed by driver who sped through red light while on her phone, as she is jailed for nine years

Spain Building Fire

10th body found in charred remnants of Valencia apartment building

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian president accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned

Crumbling Sussex mansion abandoned by millionaire developer 'is UK's biggest slum' and is 'magnet for drug abuse'

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'

'We will be there to the end': Shapps vows UK will back Ukraine until war is over, as Britain gives £245m military aid

Exclusive
LBC spoke to a mother and daughter from the war-torn city of Mariupol

Ukrainian refugees accuse Home Office of becoming ‘tired of Ukraine’ after altering resettlement schemes

Rishi Sunak has been urged to strip Liz Truss of the Conservative whip

Labour urges Rishi Sunak to strip former PM Liz Truss of Conservative whip after claim of 'deep state sabotage'

Ursula von der Leyen

EC chief von der Leyen arrives in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Mel B

'I went from Spice Girls tour to sharing a bed with my kids': Mel B had just £700 in the bank after leaving abusive ex

King Charles

King Charles chuckles at funny get-well card, one of 7,000 he was sent after cancer diagnosis

Palestine protesters outside Parliament

Palestine protest leader 'wanted Parliament to have to lock its doors', as fears grow for MP's safety