Lower the age of consent? No. Stop victim blaming? Absolutely

The scandal of Jimmy Savile's behaviour should not lead to the "persecution of old men" says Barbara Hewson. Photograph: Wikipedia
4 Jun 2013 @ 10.05 am
| Opinion

The scandal of Jimmy Savile's behaviour should not lead to the "persecution of old men" says Barbara Hewson. Photograph: Wikipedia
The scandal of Jimmy Savile’s behaviour should not lead to the “persecution of old men” says Barbara Hewson. Photograph: Wikipedia
grace-clarke-bylineGrace Clarke is astonished by a barrister’s suggestion that 13-year-old girls are ready for sex


Pass me my pen, because I need to add Barbara Hewson to my ever growing list of people who are dead to me. Barbara, incredibly, is a barrister specialising in reproductive rights. Which is why I find it so distressing that a woman with her wealth of knowledge and experience, really believes it’s a good idea to lower the age of consent to just 13 years.

When I was 13 years old I wore ankle socks to school. I was about to sit my SATs. And I’m pretty sure I still found boys offensive.

So, yes, Barbara, let’s lower the age of consent so our children can be legally abused, it’ll save us a job won’t it? We can stop “persecuting old men” like Stuart Hall in the wake of The Savile Scandal.

Oh, The Savile Scandal, the most horrendously divisive topic in recent history. If one more person tells me “it was a different time back then” I will not be held accountable for my actions. These are people who sexually abused children. Used their status and power to manipulate children for their pleasure. I don’t care if it happened last week or last century, they need to be held accountable for their actions.

Unfortunately, it’s Barbara’s belief that we’re taking it all a bit too seriously, here’s another of her delightful statements: “Touching a 17-year-old’s breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one’s hand up a 16-year-old’s skirt are not crimes comparable to gang rapes and murders and anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality.”

Yes, she really said that. It should be generally perceived that any sexual contact without consent is an invasion, and incredibly traumatic to the victim. It just takes one stupid statement like this to belittle a nation of victims. What makes matters worse is by categorising these assaults as “misdemeanours” she’s saying “hey, this is acceptable.”

Which ties into something I feel incredibly strongly about – the fine art of victim blaming. The suggestion that an alteration in the behaviour of a rape victim could have changed their fate. I’m here to tell you that it couldn’t. Barbara described the persecution of Stuart Hall for his “misdemeanours” as a “grotesque spectacle.” By the way, he’s admitted to all of these little slip ups, one of which involved assaulting a nine-year-old girl.

I’ll tell you what’s a “grotesque spectacle” – it’s this country led by short sighted, ignorant, victim blamers who tell us we are responsible for avoiding our own rape. We need to stop telling victims how they should have behaved differently.

I don’t need your rape avoidance techniques – which by the way, are incredibly sexist, offering absolutely no insight into how the 9,000 men raped a year could have avoided such an outcome – I don’t need to choose my outfits based on whether showing a little bit more leg might tempt someone to rape me, I certainly shouldn’t be choosing my shoes based on how fast I can run in them. We don’t need to live our lives worrying whether or not we’re somehow encouraging an attack. Rape stops with the rapist. Not the victim.

So, Barbara, you get my “chump of the week” award. Put it on your shelf next to the photograph of your 13-year-old daughter who is definitely mentally ready to have sex.