ALMOST half of all young men believe that women risk rape when they go out at night wearing provocative clothing, the Herald can exclusively reveal.
Figures from a yet-to-be-released Irish study have shown that a significant proportion of male students believe that women who claim to have been raped are partly responsible for it.
This mistaken belief can be particularly dangerous to victims of a sexual assault who feel tremendous amounts of pressure from their peers to not reveal the incident.
According to the Sexual Violence Centre, 80pc of teenagers who are sexually assaulted know their assailants, and feel huge pressure from peers not to reveal the incident -- due to the internet. "One of the big concerns about modern technology is that incidents like these cannot be kept private, and young people will insult the victim, telling her she's a slut and so on," Mary Crilly, Director of the Sexual Violence Centre, said.
"They will use the internet as a way to favour the assailant, all he has to say is that it was consensual and the majority will believe him because double standards are alive and well.
"It's not so much pornography online that has caused this increase in the number of incidents, because plenty of young boys watch the same videos and are not raping anyone.
"The ones who do it, do it because they can get away with it, they can say the girl was a tease and with attitudes not changing but clothes getting more revealing, people will believe them."
Nearly 3,000 college students participated in a questionnaire concerning their attitudes and awareness of sexual violence in May 2011.
The majority of the 2,821 respondents were older teenagers in their first year (44.9pc) and second year (21.6pc) of university.
The results, which will be published by the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork later this month, showed that conservative beliefs about rape still persist. According to the research, between 40pc and 50pc of male respondents approved the three following statements: "Many women claim rape if they have consented to sexual relationships but have changed their minds afterwards [49.3pc of male students agreed with this statement].
"A woman who goes out alone at night or wears provocative clothing, puts herself in a position to be raped [44.6pc].
"Women often claim rape to protect their reputations [40.1pc]."
Ms Crilly told the Herald that the mistaken beliefs held by the male student population can prove very harmful to victims of sexual violence.
"It's heartbreaking to hear a young 14- or 15-year-old say that they feel it was their own fault because they were wearing a short skirt or had a drink. We should be judging the people who chose to take advantage of them when they were in a vulnerable position more than anything else," she said.
Ms Crilly also insisted that in her 30 years of experience she had only ever come across one or two cases where she did not believe the victim to be genuine.
"It's important to stress that women are not the ones who charge someone for rape -- they can only make a statement to the police, and the public prosecutor may decide to take the case to court after the investigation is completed -- false rape claims are extremely rare."
The centre's upcoming research is particularly noteworthy in light of recent figures on juvenile crime which show a considerable increase in the number of sexual offences.
Last year, 195 sexual offences were committed by juveniles, compared with 74 in 2009.
The 2010 report of the Garda Diversion Programme also recorded 50 cases of rape on a male or female (17 in 2009), 119 cases of sexual assault (40 in 2009), and 10 cases of defilement of a boy or girl under the age of 17 (nine the previous year).
This serious increase was highlighted this year by cases such as the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl at the Tramco teenage disco in Rathmines on June 23. A 14-year-old boy was arrested and later released.
The same month, a 15-year-old boy admitted sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls in the grounds of a Dublin school.