I thought that everyone was pleased to have Operation Yewtree bringing justice to the victims of historical sex abuse. The victims’ mental scars will never fully heal, not just from the abuse itself, but from the people they may have told and didn’t believe them as they were just children. Yet today, a barrister has written an article for “Spiked” magazine, which has found its way from this small corner of online life into the mainstream.
The age of consent is there to protect minors from sexual abuse – from the predation of successful, much older men like those who’ve been charged in the wake of Operation Yewtree. It’s there to provide a solid line to show when teenagers would be able to make the decision to consent for themselves – understanding the potential outcomes from the situation. It has nothing to do with the age young women go through puberty. Just because you can have children, doesn’t mean you have the maturity to deal with sex and its potential consequences.
What I found most worrying about this article is that it’s penned by an extremely well-educated woman. A woman who went through puberty like the rest of us, knew the pressures from young men. Western society (where she and I are talking about) is a frankly terrifying place to go through puberty as a woman. In a small town where I grew up, it’s still commonplace for drunk guys to shout at teenagers to “show us yer tits” at 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. And if you ignore them, it only gets scarier. I wonder if Barbara Hewson was ever followed along a busy street with a man shouting at her, for other people to utterly ignore it.
Operation Yewtree is not about “persecuting” these well-known people in society. It’s about bringing people who raped and sexually assaulted children to justice, no matter how long it’s been since the incident, or how successful they have been. Having sex with a 9-year-old girl is not a “minor misdemeanour”, it’s rape. How can a girl that young possibly make an informed decision about sex, especially in England and Wales where sex and relationship education is not mandatory to be taught in school? Would a 9-year-old know about contraception, or even her right to say no?
In her article, Hewson suggests removing complainant anonymity – which in our Daily Mail fuelled media is nothing but outrageously dangerous. Events in America around Steubenville and the young girls who’s anonymity was not protected should make that abundantly clear. Victims of sexual assault and rape have enough problems just trying to come to terms with what has happened to them without society and the general media pointing the finger of blame squarely on them. It’s been said countless times – the victims of rape are not to blame, the perpetrators are.
Barbara Hewson’s language choice is also disturbing – claiming that “even” a deputy speaker in the House of Commons perpetuates the very ideas Operation Yewtree is dispelling. Just because a man is in the public eye, does not make him immune to committing sexual abuse and rape, and definitely should not make him above the law. The NSPCC is not a pressure group, it’s a charity there to help vulnerable children, such as those who have been abused.
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 remotely comparable to the horrors of the Ealing Vicarage assaults and gang rape, or the Fordingbridge gang rape and murders, both dating from 1986. Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality.
No-one is suggesting the three actions listed there are rape. They are, however the sexual abuse of a minor and should be prosecuted as such, no matter how long it’s been since they took place. To say otherwise maintains the prevalent rape culture in our society, making it appear that men in positions of power are untouchable in the eyes of the law. Late justice is still justice.
You’d think a barrister would understand that.