Almost half of students in the North believe women who flirt only have themselves to blame if they are later raped, new research indicated today.
Rape victims who flirted with their attacker are partially or totally responsible for what happened to them, according to 46% of the young people interviewed for the study.
Nearly a third (30%) of those polled for the Amnesty International research said women who wear revealing clothing are also effectively inviting rapists to target them.
The statistics are significantly higher than the findings of a UK-wide poll of adults in 2005 which found 34% of people felt women who flirt were to blame with 26% of those asked claiming sexy clothes were a factor.
Amnesty said this was evidence of a worrying female "blame culture" in the region.
The study revealed that domestic violence against female students is apparently widespread in the North, with 40% of students saying they know one who had been assaulted by her boyfriend or partner.
Meanwhile, one in 10 local students considers violence acceptable against a girlfriend who nags, flirts with other men or refuses to have sex.
Amnesty International Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said: “This survey shows that there are some extremely disturbing attitudes swirling around our campuses.
“It’s shocking that so many students lay the blame for being raped or assaulted at the feet of women themselves. If we are going to break a cycle of violence against women in Northern Ireland, we need to start by challenging attitudes amongst students and the population at large.
“As part of an integrated strategy to end all forms of violence against women, the Northern Ireland Executive should consider a comprehensive campaign aimed at preventing violence and challenging prejudicial attitudes.”
The human rights body is calling on university heads to do more to tackle the problem of violence against women on campus and has launched an awareness campaign in student unions.
The poll – Violence against women: the perspective of students in Northern Ireland – surveyed the attitudes and experiences of over 700 students across University of Ulster campuses.
Katie Morgan, President of NUS/USI (National Union of Students/Union of Students in Ireland) said:
“Sadly, these results chime with what I have seen with my own eyes on campus. We’ve long been calling for better services for students who have suffered violence, and these results confirm not only that domestic abuse amongst students occurs far too often, but that students don’t know where to turn when it happens.
“The universities and colleges need to think again about the welfare of their students and in tackling the suggestion that a woman can be responsible for being raped.”
The study showed that three quarters of students did not know what advice to give a woman who had suffered domestic abuse: 77% felt they did not have enough information and support to tackle the problem and 82% were unaware of the availability of any support services on campus for student victims of domestic violence.