Half of women believe that America has a rape culture

Jamie BallardData Journalist
October 11, 2019, 6:00 PM UTC

Does America have a rape culture? Half (51%) of American women say yes. The results of YouGov’s most recent survey on how Americans view sexual assault in the country comes in the wake of new details about a sexual misconduct claim against former Today Show host Matt Lauer.

Journalist Ronan Farrow’s new book contains new details about one of the claims against Lauer that resulted in him being fired from NBC in 2017. Brooke Nevils, an alleged victim, says in the book that Lauer raped her in his hotel room when they were in Sochi covering the 2014 Olympics.

New data from YouGov finds that 66 percent of Americans have heard about this story in the news recently, and 65 percent believe that rape and sexual assault is a serious issue within media companies.

65% of Americans believe rape and sexual assault are serious issues within media companies

Almost four in 10 (37%) US Adults say rape and sexual assault is a “very serious” issue in media companies, while 28 percent say it is a “somewhat serious” issue. 

Americans are split regarding how the media covers stories about famous people accused of sexual assault. One-third believe that the media pays an appropriate amount of attention to this topic, while 26 percent believe the media pays too much attention to these stories. Another 28 percent say that the media doesn’t pay enough attention to stories about famous people accused of rape. Women (32%) are more likely than men (23%) to say the media doesn’t pay enough attention to these stories.
Americans are split on how the media should cover sexual assault accusations against famous people

Lauer has denied Nevils’ claims. In an open letter published in Variety, he wrote that her account is “filled with false details intended only to create the impression this was an abusive encounter,” and says that the sexual interactions they had were consensual. 

YouGov asked people which number they believe is larger: the number of people who are reluctant to report being a victim of rape or sexual assault, or the number of people who falsely report being a victim, as Lauer says Nevils has done.

About six in 10 (63%) believe that the number of people who are reluctant to report an assault is larger. One in five (20%) believes the number of people who falsely report being a victim is larger.
Most Americans say it's more common for people to be reluctant to report sexual assault than falsely report
Whether or not America has a rape culture, depends on who you ask. More than half of American women say yes, America has what’s defined as “a culture in which sexual violence is prevalent and normalized, in which people aren’t taught not to rape.”

Overall, 45 percent of Americans say they believe that America has a rape culture. Another 30 percent of Americans say the country does not have a rape culture. 

Men are nearly evenly split on this question: 39 percent say America does have a rape culture; 38 percent say it doesn’t. About half (51%) of women say that the US does have a rape culture.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) sexual assault hotline toll-free at 800-656-4673 or chat with a crisis support staff member online

Related: Two years after #MeToo, how do Americans view sexual harassment?

See the full survey results here.

Image: Getty

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