Naming rape victims, special schools and others

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Naming women who have been raped turns them into victims

Naming women who have been raped turns them into victims

Sir: So Deborah Orr would like to see an end to anonymity for sufferers of rape and sexual attacks on the grounds that it is "not something any woman should feel shame about" (11 June).

Really? I was sexually attacked and felt deep shame (and anger). I was glad of the anonymity the law afforded me; it meant the only people who knew of the attack were those I chose to tell. The vast majority of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances remained in ignorance as I did not want to spend months telling and retelling the tale, nor dealing with the endless inquiries as to how I was feeling now.

Publishing the names of sufferers of sexual attack and rape means all who know them will be aware of the event and they will become defined by it - in other words, a victim.


Sir: Sandra Broughton says that rape trials fail because of the difficulty of being sure someone is guilty when it is a matter of one person's word against another; she bases her view upon her experience as a juror (letter, 10 June).

She may be interested to learn that the law has recently been changed to allow past conduct to be admitted in evidence if it demonstrates a propensity to commit this kind of offence. This allows jurors (and magistrates) to be shown extracts from the defendant's list of previous convictions. If he's done this kind of thing before, especially if there are similarities about his methods, then the court will be told about those other events; it won't be just a matter of one person's word against another.



The lesson special schools can teach

Sir: Lady Warnock is right to separate the concept of inclusion in education from the move to sweep away special schools ("Warnock performs U-turn over move from special schools", 9 June).

After more than quarter of a century as a secondary head, I still believe strongly in the comprehensive principle but always assumed a role for special schools in a comprehensive system. The move forward I would like to see is for these schools to work more closely with mainstream schools. The expertise in such schools needs to be spread wider.

Now that I work as an education advocacy officer supporting children with severe visual impairment this has become even clearer. In one term, three such pupils who were all doing well at mainstream primary schools expressed a desire to attend a school where they were the same as everyone else. As another youngster put it: "I don't want to be special in a normal school; I want to be normal in a special school."

It should be possible to devise a way for some pupils to gain the benefits of working in a mainstream and a special school situation.

Lady Warnock is also right to say that the statementing system is too bureaucratic. However, the protection, as a legal document, it affords more pupils and parents is invaluable The system should be modified, not abolished.

At present a statement has to be based on written professional evidence almost entirely. This uses time that could be better spent helping pupils directly. A less formal system resulting in a shorter statement agreed by parent, LEA and, where appropriate, school could be more speedily and cheaply produced.



Green role of nuclear energy

Sir: Your report (13 June) on a rift in the G8 on global warming also exposes another weakness in the purported determination of the world's major powers to tackle climate change.

George Bush stepped up to the challenge last week when he urged more international co-operation on clean nuclear power. However, for the UK to call this a "red line" issue smacks of weakness when most of the G8 countries themselves have benefited for many years from nuclear energy as a low-carbon technology.

Rather than denying the part new nuclear generation can play in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, G8 members must be prepared to lead the way. If we are serious about beating climate change, red-lining nuclear is not the answer.



Sir: Working to mitigate climate change, whether caused by human activity or by the course of nature, is of course worthwhile. However, at least as pressing will be the huge social and political pressures caused by the inevitable movement of populations seeking sustainable living conditions.

These are issues that will have to be addressed on a global scale if we are not to see greatly increased civil and international turmoil in the latter part of this century. Moreover, it will need brave people to consider these matters in a way that does not smack of cynical social engineering or political gain.



Sir: I would like to praise the virtues of the airship as a mode of transport which is quiet, needs little infrastructure, is practically non-polluting, has infinite range and is capable of generating most of its energy requirements from solar energy.

There are practically no limits in size so accommodation can be as spacious as cruise liners. Electric motors would provide propulsion, being omni-directional as in the Harrier aircraft. This facility would enable steady hovering over land or water and accurate manoeuvring. Altitude cold could also be controlled by making the ship cellular so that the gas within can be heated or cooled at will on the principle used by hot air balloons but using electrical circuits.

I was a boy during the airship era and I know about the disasters, but we have learned the lessons and have many new materials and technology. For the sake of our planet, this is the way we should go.



Sir: If Blair rejects modest and long-overdue measures to combat climate change (scrapping the anomalous tax breaks that subsidise the massively polluting aviation industry, for example) as "politically impossible", then what hope does he have of bringing the Toxic Texan on board?

Blair's abject timidity on this issue is in sharp contrast to the arrogance displayed in his draconian "anti-terror" legislation. Presumably his opinion of the British people is so low that he assumes we all care more about cheap flights than we do about our birthright.



Religious hatred law patronises Wiccans

Sir: You note that the proposed religious hatred law would "protect" Satanists, witches and "cult members". I have been Wiccan since 1983, and I have only been subjected to a handful of hateful acts by people who objected to my being Wiccan. However, I am glad I no longer live in the UK because I find the proposed law exceedingly insulting.

Does minister Paul Goggins fail to see how patronising his proposed law is towards the people he claims to be "protecting"? I'm an adult, damn it. Part of being a healthy and mature adult is the ability to deal with offence (real, perceived, and imaginary).

The proposed law censors - a priori - other people's ideas and opinions about me as a Wiccan, and that is evil on two counts: first, the the right to speak one's opinions is sacrosanct, and second, who the hell gets to determine what is "hateful" and what is not?

What happens when the "hateful" opinion is reasonable and socially responsible? If a church believes that marrying and having sex with little girls is "godly" (and there are several such churches and religions in the USA), would the proposed law put a person in jail or have them pay a fine if they object to that religious tenet?



Sir: Your article "Religious hate law would protect witches and cults" (10 June), itself smacks of incitement to religious hatred - not to mention scaremongering - by implying strongly that witches and other Pagan groups were people to be feared; people who should not expect any rights under the proposed law. In a serious display of ignorance, the article also put them on a par with Satanists. The two faiths have absolutely nothing in common.

As a Christian who has worked with Pagans for the last five years, I know their faith is just as valid, just as ethical, just as flawed and just as deserving of protection under any new law as my own. "Cults" too may deserve protection. After all, what was Christianity once but a highly persecuted sect?



Stop tolerating the madman Mugabe

Sir: Having just read the article regarding Robert Mugabe's "operation clean-up" ("Mugabe takes his revenge on poor by destroying thousands of homes", 10 June), I wonder how long the UK and the United Nations are prepared to wait before they pursue some form of action against what is blatantly an open disregard of human rights.

The dictatorial rule of Mugabe surely now resembles that of Idi Amin in Uganda during the Seventies. Is the present Government prepared to let this carnage and destruction continue unopposed? Does the UK not have stronger ties with this former colony than ever existed in Iraq?

Tackling poverty in Africa with "awareness" events such as Live8 may help in so much as they may prompt cancellation of third world debt but the problems will persist as long as corrupt tyrants such as Mugabe remain in power. Expelling Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth did little to halt the economic decline of this once proud country, and the imposition of sanctions will only make matters worse. It is clear that strong words and rhetoric mean nothing to this madman.



Will Labour really replace Trident?

Sir: Does Labour intend to replace the strategic nuclear deterrent when Trident comes to the end of its life? This is the question I and other Conservative MPs are repeatedly asking - so far, with little to show for it.

Defence Secretary John Reid claimed to have answered it in the House on 6 June by referring to Labour's general election manifesto "commitment to the retention of the independent nuclear deterrent". Yet this is open to two entirely different interpretations. One is that, by retaining the deterrent the Government means that it intends to acquire a new generation of it, to succeed Trident. The other is merely that Labour will not scrap the existing Trident force before the end of its planned life, but is giving no commitment to the principle of replacing it with any new system at all.

The Defence Secretary's most revealing remark was that "no decision on any replacement for Trident has been taken, either in principle or otherwise". This strongly suggests that the second interpretation is the correct one and that the Government may yet decide to leave the United Kingdom with no nuclear deterrent when Trident is finally phased out.

Fifteen years ago, you kindly published letters which I had drafted, challenging Labour to say whether or not they believed that Britain should continue to possess nuclear weapons as long as other countries have them. The time has come, once again, to persist in posing that question until we get an unambiguous answer.



Armani Man flies out of the country

Sir: I can assure Geoff Beedie (letter, 8 June) that Armani Man is no stranger to Gerrards Cross. Two or three years ago, only a few hundred yards from my home, I was stopped and asked in a heavily accented voice for directions to "eatrow" airport.

The driver insisted on telling me that he represented a fashion house in Italy, was on his way to catch a flight to Milan and had with him his samples of clothing which he would be willing to sell me for half-price or less to avoid being overweight on his flight. I gave him the required directions and said I only bought my clothes from M&S.

A few weeks later I was stopped by a driver who I thought looked vaguely familiar and again asked the way to "eatrow" airport. I gave him directions and added that I did not want to buy any clothes. I thought he gave me a strange sort of look.



Wrong subsidy

Sir: Can you please explain the rationale behind subsidisation of European agriculture rather than other industries, such as electronics? Wouldn't it make more sense for EU countries to sell computers, cars and medicines and import food?



Southern spongers

Sir: David Oliver's suggestion of a "Northern League" faction within the EU (letter, 13 June) sounds eerily similar to the quasi-fascist rhetoric I heard at the end of the 1980s in Lombardia, where some supporters of the Lega Lombardia (a forerunner of the Lega Nord) would routinely describe their fellow countryman south of the Po as little better than disgusting, grubby peasants who sponge off the hard-working North; or to sum it up in one insult i terroni.



Ikea upon Tyne

Sir: I doubt that Sarah Storey (letter, 13 June) passed an Ikea in Newcastle (England). She is much more likely to have first crossed the Tyne going south before passing an Ikea in Gateshead (Still England).



The dead of Iraq

Sir: As a middle-aged, middle-class English housewife, I continue to be shocked at the many deaths of innocent citizens in Iraq. Has anybody thought of creating a memorial to the civilian dead? The US and UK military authorities are not recording civilian deaths. Iraqi citizens could list all the names on a website until the Iraqi government felt the time was right to have a memorial built. This would bring the huge numbers home to the people of the world.



The artist's eyebrow

Sir: In our age of celebrity, Frida Kahlo's appeal is unsurprising ("The great bad painter", 13 June), but I have long harboured the suspicion that if she had had two eyebrows, we'd never have heard of her.