Belief in rape myths falls

Official Statistics published.

New statistics released today by the Chief Statistician show that people in Scotland thought that sexual violence and domestic abuse were seriously wrong and cause harm. However, views differed according to the type of abuse and the context within which it took place.

Rape by a stranger and physical domestic abuse were the most likely to be viewed as seriously wrong, among the behaviours asked about. Around nine in ten people said that a man raping a stranger and a man slapping his wife were ‘very seriously wrong’ and caused the woman ‘a great deal’ of harm.

Verbal domestic abuse and financially controlling behaviour were less likely to be viewed as wrong than rape or physical domestic abuse. Over seven in ten (72%) thought a man taking out a stressful day at work on his wife by putting her down/criticising her was ‘very seriously wrong’. Meanwhile just under seven in ten (68%) said the same of a husband insisting on looking at his wife’s bank statements without showing her his own. Just over half (55%) said that a man controlling what his wife wears is ‘very seriously wrong’.

Over two-thirds (69%) of people thought a woman was ‘not at all to blame’ for being raped if she is wearing revealing clothing or is very drunk. Consequently, just under one-third believed that a woman is at least partly to blame for being raped in these circumstances.

Over four-fifths (83%) of people thought that a man offering a woman a spare room in his flat in return for sex was ‘very seriously wrong’. However, under two-fifths thought it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for a man to pay a woman for sex (38%).

Over half (56%) of people said that paying for sex should be against the law.

There were some significant changes in attitudes between 2014 and 2019. Belief in rape myths declined, with the proportion of people agreeing that ‘women often lie about rape’ falling from 23% to 8%. Meanwhile 39% thought a group of men wolf-whistling at a woman is ‘very seriously wrong’, up from 25% in 2014. However, views did not change in all areas and there were no significant changes in views on the wrongness of physical or verbal abuse.

The released figures were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


The full statistical publication is available on the Scottish Government website. It sets out public attitudes to violence against women in Scotland and how these changed between 2014 and 2019. Analysis and reporting of the 2019 data was undertaken by ScotCen Social Research.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is based on interviews with adults drawn using probability sampling. Interviews took place from August 2019 to March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The questions on violence against women were in the self-completion section of the survey due to their sensitive nature and were completed by 959 respondents.

Publications from previous years can be accessed at the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey collection page.   

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland is available.


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