i Editor's Letter: "No means no"


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The Independent Online


One joy of this job is that I can truly say there's not a day that passes when I don't learn something. One of its sadnesses is how depressing that something often is. Today, it is the appalling level of sexual harassment that British women endure daily - at least in London.

When I expressed surprise at the report, I was put right in the most forthright terms. Most men have no idea how ubiquitous harassment is. One of our younger female staff detailed an almost daily diet that ranged from relatively minor, but aggravating, comments, to alarming incidents of real physical assault.

The same woman told me six of her friends have been raped. Six! You don't "accept" harassment, she said, but you "expect" it. Well, why should women expect it?

In March, i ran a report of a survey that revealed one woman in 10 had been raped in Britain, and more than a third had suffered a sexual assault. Even worse, more than 80 per cent (of 1,600 women surveyed) said they did not report their assault to the police. Seventy per cent felt the media was unsympathetic and half thought this applied to the legal system too.

Remember these stories the next time you read a columnist, often female, imply that a victim was in some way "asking for it" because of how she dressed or how drunk she was, or because she hung out with a stranger at a hotel.

No victim is ever "asking for it". No victim should ever be criticised for any of the above. Why in 2012 is it even necessary to write this?

Blaming victims allows culprits to believe society does not abhor their behaviour. But we do, and we need to speak up in defence of the principle that "no means no", drunk in a mini-skirt in a hotel, or not.