Many young Belgians unclear about sexual consent

Many young Belgians unclear about sexual consent
© Belga

In cases of sexual violence, the notion of consent is still an unclear concept for many of the general public, especially among young people, according to a new report.

A third of persons under 26 believe it is normal to insist on having sex, according to a survey commissioned by Amnesty International and SOS Viol, released on Thursday. Both organisations demand that sexual education become truly widespread in all schools. 

According to precise figures seen by Belga, a third of the young people who were surveyed also believe that you cannot call it rape if a person does not explicitly say "no." Additionally, the survey shows that only 53% of those surveyed are aware that rape of a partner is a sexual assault and is punishable by imprisonment. 

A fifth of male respondents believed they cannot be accused by their partner of rape, and a quarter think they may not be charged with rape if they impose oral sex. However, Belgian law defines rape as any penetration act committed without consent. 

Amnesty believes that there is clearly a lack of understanding of this notion, especially among young people. The human rights organisation appeals to authorities to strengthen the education program on the social, emotional and sexual life in schools across Belgium so that it be delivered systematically to everyone.

For its part, Amnesty will launch a major awareness campaign on consent, specifically targeting boys and young men, who "do not always seem to take the real measure of the seriousness of their actions and their consequences." 

Finally, the survey does not ignore the numerous prejudices about rape and sexual violence. For example, 20% of men - and 11% of women - think that women like to be forced, and that violence is sexually exciting for them.

Additionally, 39% of men - and 25% of women - consider that when it comes to rape complaints, women often wrongly accuse. 

The study found that 48% of men and 37% of women feel that "mitigating circumstances" related to the victim's behaviour may exist in some cases, making the latter partly responsible for the attack: 16% target sexy clothing, 16% the fact that the person has not explicitly said “no”, and 14% for "provocative behaviour.”

The survey was conducted among 2,300 people. The number of young people from 15 to 25 was over-sampled to better measure their positioning. Out of the total sample, the maximum margin of error is ± 2.05%.

The Brussels Times

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