Leading barrister attacks 'ideology of sexual victimisation' around rape

Barbara Hewson said people shouldn't assume that in rape 'the victim is utterly innocent'

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The Independent Online

A leading barrister has waded into provocative territory with comments that people shouldn't assume that in rape "the victim is utterly innocent."

Barbara Hewson attacked the “ideology of sexual victimisation” during a debate at the London School of Economics, and questioned the long-term damage rape causes.

According to the Telegraph, Ms Hewson - who is a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service - said: “We need to make a distinction between legal responsibility and moral responsibility.

“The law does not attribute any responsibility now to the victim of rape...  We all know if you’re drunk you are more likely to have accidents. So if you fall off a bar stool and hit your head and have a serious brain injury because you’re drunk people are gong to say well you chose to be drunk.

“So it does seem to me something a little sanitised about the idea that (when discussing rape) we cannot even have a discussion about the moral responsibility whatever people may want to say about the legal responsibility.”

She went on to explain what she sees as four misconceptions around rape.

“The first," she said, "is the idea that rape and sexual abuse is very widespread but largely unrecognised even by victims themselves who need to be taught to realise what’s really happened.

“Secondly, that it has long term damaging effects. Thirdly that its morally absolutely unambiguous, the victim is utterly innocent and the victimiser is utterly guilty and this is infinitesimal. And finally that claims of victimisation must always be respected, anything less is victim-blaming.”

She added that some rape victims use their ordeals as an excuse for personal failures, saying: “It becomes the cause of everything that goes wrong in life.”

Ms Hewson is no stranger to challenging consensus when it comes to sex crimes. Earlier this year, she wrote in The Independent that: "The victim lobby, represented by various advocacy and campaigning groups, some with vast PR budgets, aggressively challenges any point of view, which does not accord with its own."

But of her latest comments Fiona Elvines, from the charity Rape Crisis, said: “Barbara Hewson shows how out of touch she is with the realities of sexual violence. As a society, we have moved on from the rape myths she continues to propagate.”

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