Fay Weldon causes rape storm

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The Independent Online
THE NOVELIST Fay Weldon has sparked outrage after calling for rape to be reduced to the lesser charge of aggravated assault.

Her claim that "it isn't the worst thing that can happen to a woman" has incensed groups who represent woman victims of rape and violence. The statement is a plea, claims Ms Weldon, for society to stop "glamourising" rape.

A spokeswoman for Women Against Rape last night condemned Ms Weldon's views. She said: "Women work very hard to prevent rape from dominating their lives and some succeed ... It's bad enough that women pay the price in so many ways without them being put down by someone in Fay Weldon's position."

Julie Donovan, from the Campaign Against Domestic Violence, added: "Fay Weldon is talking rubbish. She ought to be looking at the figures - the number of reported rapes is going down because women have to go through the ordeal of the court room.

"Statements like hers are going to discourage women from coming forward and reporting it, they will think it's not that serious. What she is doing is extremely dangerous. The idea that it's not the worst thing that can happen to a woman is outrageous. Why then was it used as a form of torture against women in some parts of the world?"

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "There is nothing glamourous about rape. For many women rape is a life-shattering experience. It's an act of violence, not an act of sex."

The 66-year-old writer said rape was not always about men trying to enforce power over women. She said that when she was a girl, a male friend climbed into her taxi as she was leaving a party and tried to rape her.

"It was nasty, but didn't shatter my view of men," Ms Weldon told the Radio Times.

She added: "The man in the taxi simply wanted sex. Now it's very unfashionable to say this, but rape actually isn't the worst thing that can happen to a woman if you're safe, alive and unmarked after the event."

The author, who described herself as "in the next stage of feminism", said she feels sorry for men who have been "demonised like witches used to be". She said: "Defining it (rape) as some peculiarly awful crime may even be counter-productive. I'd like to see it defused for women and deglamourised for men by returning it to the category of aggravated assault."