Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland

Published: 25 Nov 2015
ISBN:
9781785448003

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey on the attitudes of the Scottish public to the following forms of violence against women: sexual violence, domestic abuse (physical, verbal, mental and emotional), sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation.

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland
Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Background

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) on public attitudes to violence against women in Scotland. The research presented in this report is intended to address a gap in the evidence base about people’s attitudes towards different forms of violence against women: sexual violence, domestic abuse (physical, verbal, mental and emotional), sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation. Commissioned by the Scottish Government it will provide a baseline measure of views about violence against women in Scotland against which progress towards the objectives outlined in Equally Safe (an ambitious new strategy launched by the Scottish Government to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls) can be assessed.

Methods

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) is carried out by ScotCen Social Research, an independent research organisation based in Edinburgh. The 2014 survey involved 1,501 interviews with a representative probability sample of the Scottish population (a response rate of 54%). All of the questions included in this report were included in the self-completion section of the survey due to the sensitive nature of the topic, although the majority of the interview is conducted face-to-face by a ScotCen interviewer. Data are weighted to adjust for known non-response bias and to ensure they reflect the sex-age profile of the Scottish population.

The research set out to capture people’s views about particular behaviours, rather than their response to the terms commonly used to describe violence against women e.g. domestic abuse, rape, etc. The survey, therefore, made extensive use of scenarios that described particular situations. After each description respondents were asked how wrong they thought the behaviour of the perpetrator was and how much harm the behaviour did to the victim.

Attitudes to sexual violence

The majority of people thought that rape by a stranger (95%) and rape within a marriage were seriously wrong[1] (93%). Fewer people felt that a husband raping his wife was ‘very seriously wrong’ (74%) than believed that a man raping a stranger was ‘very seriously wrong’ (88%). People were also less likely to say that the husband raping his wife caused the victim ‘a great deal’ of harm compared with the harm caused when the rape was perpetrated by a stranger. Women, younger people, those who had experienced some form of gender-based violence and those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles were all more likely to think that the husband raping his wife was ‘very seriously wrong’.

When respondents were given the additional information that the woman had first taken the man into her bedroom and started kissing him, fewer people felt that the man’s behaviour was seriously wrong. The proportion viewing the rape by a stranger as ‘very seriously wrong’ decreased from 88% to 58%, and in the scenario where the husband raped his wife the proportion decreased from around three-quarters (74%) to less than half (44%). This may be in part due to people viewing the woman’s behaviour negatively. In the stranger scenario only 13% thought the woman’s behaviour was ‘not at all wrong’, and in the marriage scenario only 20% thought that the wife’s behaviour was ‘not wrong at all’.

There was evidence to suggest people believe that in certain situations woman are at least partly to blame if they are raped. Only 58% said that a woman who wore revealing clothing on a night out was ‘not at all to blame’ for being raped, and 60% said the same of a woman who was very drunk. Around a quarter (23%) agreed that ‘women often lie about being raped’ and nearly 2 in 5 (37%) agreed that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.

Attitudes to domestic abuse: Physical abuse

Over 9 in 10 people thought that physical abuse of a partner was seriously wrong regardless of whether the perpetrator and victim were male or female. However, a higher proportion felt it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for a man to get angry and slap his wife (92%) compared with a wife slapping her husband (81%). A similar pattern was found when respondents were asked what harm, if any, the violence did to the victim: 89% thought the man getting angry and slapping his wife caused ‘a great deal’ of harm, compared with 62% who thought the same about a woman slapping her husband. People under 65 years old, those who had experienced physical abuse by a partner, those with higher levels of formal qualifications and those who did not hold stereotypical views about gender roles were all more likely to think that the woman slapping her husband was ‘very seriously wrong’.

Around a quarter (26%) thought that the woman who had been slapped should forgive her husband if he told her how sorry he was, compared with 60% who thought that the man who had been slapped should forgive his wife. Whether the victim was a woman or a man, older people and those who held stereotypical views about gender roles were more likely to say that the perpetrator should be forgiven. Those who had previously experienced physical abuse by a partner were less likely than those who had not to say that the man should be forgiven. Men were more likely than women to say that the man should forgive his wife (69% compared with 50%), as were those who had never experienced any form of gender-based violence.

The circumstances within which the physical abuse took place also made a difference. Attitudes became less negative to a man slapping his wife if the man had found out that his wife had had an affair. In this scenario, around half (54%) thought that the man's behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, although around 8 in 10 (82%) still thought it was seriously wrong (giving it a score of at least 5 on the ‘wrong’ scale). If the woman had had an affair, more people thought that she should forgive her husband (46%) than did in the previous scenario where the husband had slapped his wife after getting angry (26%).

Older people and those with stereotypical views on gender roles were less likely to think that the man slapping his wife after she has had an affair was seriously wrong and caused her harm, and they were also more likely to think that the wife should forgive her husband.

Domestic abuse: verbal abuse

Most people believed that putting down and criticising your husband or wife was seriously wrong: 94% said it was seriously wrong when the man criticised his wife, and 88% thought it was seriously wrong when a woman criticised her husband. However, a smaller proportion thought it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for a woman to criticise her husband (48%) compared with a man criticising his wife (72%). A similar pattern was seen when people were asked how much harm this behaviour did.

Women were more likely than men (77% compared with 68%) to feel that a man criticising his wife was wrong, as were those in the highest income group compared with those in the lowest income group (77% compared with 64%). When the perpetrator of the abuse was a woman, the difference between genders disappeared, and both men and women were less likely to say that the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ compared with the man’s behaviour. However, women (46%) were more likely than men (35%) to say that the woman criticising her husband caused him ‘a great deal’ of harm. Younger people, those on higher incomes and those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles were all more likely to think that the woman criticising her husband was ‘very seriously wrong’.

Domestic abuse: controlling behaviour

People were also asked about three types of controlling behaviour: financial control, trying to stop their partner going out, and trying to control what their partner was wearing to go out. Generally, attitudes towards these controlling behaviours were less negative than those towards both physical and verbal abuse. Financial control was viewed as the most serious of the three types of controlling behaviour explored. Around 3 in 5 (63%) thought insisting on seeing the wife’s bank statements was ‘very seriously wrong’. However, it was not seen as particularly harmful to the wife, with just 34% believing it would cause the wife ‘a great deal’ of harm.

Half of people thought that a husband trying to stop his wife going out with friends was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with less than a quarter who thought this if a wife was trying to stop her husband going out (23%). Similarly more people thought that the husband’s behaviour would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm to his wife compared with views on the impact on a husband where he was subject to this abuse. A smaller proportion (39%) believed it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for a man to tell his wife to change her clothes before going on a night out. And only 27% thought that the man’s behaviour would cause ‘a great deal of harm’ to his wife. If the wife had had an affair, a smaller proportion of people then said that the man telling his wife to change her clothes before going out was wrong. Less than half (48%) felt that the man’s behaviour merited a score of 5 or more on the ‘wrong’ scale. This suggests that certain circumstances are seen to excuse the behaviour and mitigate its seriousness.

Women were more likely than men to see all three types of controlling behaviour as wrong irrespective of the gender of the victim. Those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles were more likely to think that insisting on seeing the wife’s bank statements would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm and that a husband trying to stop his wife going out with friends or telling her to change her clothes before going out were ‘very seriously wrong’. Those with higher levels of formal education were also more likely to think that a husband trying to stop his wife going out was ‘very seriously wrong’.

In contrast to previous results, it was older people compared with younger people who were more likely to think that financially controlling behaviour was wrong and harmful. 40% of those aged 65 or over thought it would cause ‘a great deal of harm’ compared with only 26% of those aged 18 to 29 years old.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace was most likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with views on a group of men wolf whistling and a man stalking his ex-girlfriend. Just over 8 in 10 (82%) thought that a boss touching a female employee’s shoulder was wrong (5 or more on the 7-point scale) compared with two-thirds (66%) who thought the behaviour of the men wolf-whistling was wrong and 62% who thought the same for the stalking scenario. Sexual harassment in the workplace was also the most likely to be seen as harmful, followed by stalking, with wolf-whistling being seen as the least harmful.

Contrary to the pattern in relation to sexual violence and domestic abuse it was younger people who were less likely than older people to view sexual harassment in the workplace or stalking as ‘very seriously wrong’: only 30% of those aged 18 to 29 thought the male boss touching his female employee’s shoulder was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with 47% of those aged 65 years or over. Women were more likely than men (49% compared with 43%) to think that sexual harassment in the workplace was ‘very seriously wrong’, as were those with lower levels of education. However, it was men who were more likely to regard men wolf-whistling and stalking as harmful. The lack of a consistent pattern as to which groups are more or less likely to regard these various forms of sexual harassment as wrong or harmful suggests that they are not viewed by people as different forms of the same type of behaviour.

People held much more negative attitudes about an ex-boyfriend posting naked photos online than they did about any of the other three sexual harassment scenarios. Nearly 9 in 10 people thought it was ‘very seriously wrong’ and would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm. And there was nearly universal support for this behaviour to be made illegal (95%).

Commercial sexual exploitation

Thirty-four percent of people in Scotland thought paying for sex was ‘always wrong’ (compared with 10% who thought it was ‘not wrong at all’) and a similar proportion (37%) thought that ‘most women who become sex workers could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’. Around 3 in 5 (59%) thought that paying for sex should ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ be illegal. Women and those who were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious were more likely to think that paying for sex was ‘always wrong’ and that it should be against the law. Women, those who were religious, those on lower incomes, those with lower levels of educational qualifications and those with stereotypical views about gender roles were more likely to agree that sex workers could easily choose a different job. For example, 54% of those who held stereotypical views about gender roles agreed with the statement, compared with 25% who did not.

Views on pornography were generally less negative than those on prostitution. Around 1 in 5 people thought that an adult watching pornography was ‘always wrong’ with the same proportion saying it was ‘not wrong at all’. Views on stopping teenage boys watching pornography were divided: 30% agreed that you shouldn’t try to stop teenage boys from watching pornography, and 37% disagreed. However, more people thought that going to a strip club and reading magazines featuring topless women were ‘not wrong at all’ than thought they were ‘always wrong’: 30% said that reading magazines featuring topless women was ‘not wrong at all’ and 8% said it was ‘always wrong’.

Women, older people and those who regarded themselves as religious were more likely to view watching pornography negatively, and were less likely to think that men going to strip clubs and reading magazines featuring topless women was ‘not wrong at all’. For example, twice as many women (28%) as men (14%) thought that an adult viewing pornography at home was ‘always wrong’.


Contact

Email: Alison Stout