An open letter to Barbara Hewson from a survivor

Following Barbara Hewson’s vicious comments about rape and sexual abuse, a survivor got in touch with me asking me to put up this open letter that she wrote. She prefers to remain anonymous and I have posted it here. Content note: this piece discusses sexual abuse and the psychological impact of sexual abuse. 

Dear Barrister Barbara Hewson,

Today you have called for the age of sexual consent to be lowered to stop “the persecution of old men” and warning against “fetishising victimhood” in the light of the case of Stewart Hall.

Let me tell you, Ms Hewson, victimhood is not something to be fetished or enjoyed. As many have already said your remarks represent the fear that all victims have of being disbelieved and the accusations of being attention seeking liars who enjoy victimhood. Abuse is something that haunts and damages you for the rest of your life, effects all the decisions you make, the friends and relationships you choose, the relationships with your family and how you feel about yourself. It will have you awake screaming & crying in the middle of the night, make you afraid of your own shadow and make you hate yourself and the body you live in. It can make you want to hurt yourself, cause resentment and anger towards others and makes it hard to trust anyone. Your remarks show just how much you, as a supposedly impartial party, know nothing about the experience of a victim.

I am one of the victims you seem to know so much about. I have twice been subjected to the selfish actions of a man, a family friend, in a position of power who wanted to rape a trusting little girl, initially aged just 11 and then 13, who didn’t understand what was going on. My brain and body was so in shock and in denial about what happened that I blocked it out for years, only realising aged 15 what had actually happened to me. I had suffered years of mental health problems following my abuse, managed to be expelled from school due to my explosions of rage and extreme self harm and was chastised by every adult for just being a “naughty child”, by my school, my GP and my family. The moment I pieced together that this family friend 12 years my senior, who I had looked up to and admired, had actually raped me in his home and later in a more public space, I attempted to take my own life by swallowing two packets of paracetamol and a bottle of vodka while my parents were out.

I never received counselling following my unsuccessful overdose and, because of the relationship my abuser and his family had with my parents, I felt too afraid to come forward. As a 15 year old with a reputation for a short temper and years of mental health problems that were often fobbed off as attention seeking or just teenage angst, I felt I had no hope of being believed over my university educated, well respected and liked abuser with a promising career who had recently married and was expecting his first child. Because of this I had to live with my fear and the fallout from my abuse alone, resulting in years of self-destructive behaviour; I withdrew from family, entered harmful and abusive relationships, allowed myself to be used and taken advantage of by friends because I just wanted to be liked, despite my academic ability, I fell behind with work, I would go out, get drunk and have sex with anyone who was willing regardless as to whether even knew their names just to feel something, endured crippling insomnia because of horrific nightmares, found myself pregnant at 17 and dealt with having an abortion without any support or the knowledge of family or friends.

I am still living with extreme feelings of worthlessness and the urge to hurt myself because of the damage sexual abuse has done to me. I am lucky because I finally found a partner I could trust enough to confide in, help me come to terms with what happened to me and start rebuilding my life. I have finally ditched all the false friends I accrued who took advantage of my vulnerable nature and desperation to be liked and accepted, and now have a network of supportive & kind people who genuinely care about me and my well being. However, I have never sought to prosecute my abuser because that fear of being disbelieved and being told that I am playing a victim for attention is so strong. Because of the nature of my family’s relationship with my abuser, I even have to see him sometimes and you cannot even begin to understand how difficult and terrifying that is. I have no hard evidence of my abuse other than the decades of damage inflicted on my psyche. If I even thought about approaching the CPS, after initial investigation the chances are that they would say prosecution wouldn’t be in the public interest, and even if it did go to court, me and my integrity would be put on trial and dragged through the mud by the defense, not what my abuser did to me. I have weighed this up in my mind more times than I can count and I have concluded that I cannot put myself through the experience again.

Ms Hewson, the fact that you as an esteemed barrister in a position of authority see it fit to perpetuate the rape apologism and victim blaming that is already so prevalent in our society and prevents victims coming forward, speaks volumes about how out of touch you are and how little you understand about sexual abuse. It’s all very well from your privileged position to fire off soundbites about “fetishing victimhood” and “persecuting old men”, but you cannot even begin to understand how damaging, disrespectful and false those statements are. As someone who has lived the majority of her life with the knowledge that she was raped when she was still a child and has suffered decades of psychological & behavioral damage as a result, your statements are just a another reminder of how society protects and excuses abusers and chastises victims. As a representative of the British legal system, you have a responsibility to seek justice for victims, not sustain the cycle of shaming them into silence, allowing those in positions of power to go on raping & abusing and ruining lives.

41 thoughts on “An open letter to Barbara Hewson from a survivor”

  1. Excellent response. From a fellow survivor of CSA – whose abuser is now an old man (“such a nice wee man!”, don’t you know) – I both empathise entirely with what you’ve written, and sympathise considerably. You did not deserve this, and for anyone to suggest that perpetrators are the victims here is fucking repugnant beyond measure.

    Safe hugs and solidarity to you.

  2. Well done for writing that. I echo lots of your thoughts however I was ‘lucky’ enough to be an adult when I was a victim of sexual abuse. I was called a liar by the policeman who came to interview me and I was completely humiliated by the perpetrators’ defense barristers. The evidence against them was emphatic yet i still had to spend 5 hours in the witness box trying to convince the jury that i wasn’t a slut, a pervert, a sexual risk taker. They got 10 years and I’m still in the same mental prison that I’ll be in forever.

  3. Thank you for saying this. As a survivor of abuse as a very young child I can’t even remember the actual attacks, only some of the subsequent abuse and have known all my life that there is no chance of prosecuting my abuser. To have anyone say that victims should basically keep their mouths shut or be hounded by the press (what happens when you name a victim) is disgusting. Thanks for speaking out. XX

  4. I’m a survivor too. My abuser WAS a old man,retired, long dead now. I can’t lay my lifetime of depression squarely at his feet; I was abused by others, in different ways… but I live with the results every day. I believe that abusers should be made to take responsibility for their actions, and accept the consequences thereof. The only way to do that is through the courts. Ronald Biggs was imprisoned as an old man, as a result of the Great Train Robbery. Abusers steal other peoples’ lives; why should they not be punished in a similar fashion? Or are children not as important to society as cold, hard cash?

  5. So brave of you to write your own account. I, too, am disgusted by Barbara Hewson’s comments, but I can’t even begin to understand just how horrible your abuse was, or how triggering this may have been.

    Thank you for speaking out. xx

  6. I don’t care how elderly the perpetrator is, he/she should always be called to account, if that is what the victim wants. Old age isn’t a get out clause.
    Barbara Hewson is the worst kind of woman for spouting all this hurtful dismissive and ill-informed crap.
    I believe you, and commend your bravery in writing what must have been a very emotive letter.

  7. The next time you are forced to be in a social setting with your abuser you may just get a little clumsy with the after dinner coffee around his lap. Two or three of these mishaps and they’ll all get the message.

  8. Many are now feeling the energy to speak openly about their abuse, despite the culture of silence enforced by this dying control system, created by the abusers in the upper echelons of high establishment. They send out apologists but they are probably traumatized themselves and carrying out the bidding of the abusive system. The voices of TRUTH are deafening the system and MSM is breaking under the pressure, This world is on the cusp of global change, not just for CSA survivors/victims. For all the downtrodden and pissed on from a great height by the draconian evil that is literally clinging on behind an ever thinning veil of pseudo respectability. Civil rights of all in a truly free global community is coming. The nonces and ponces and sycophants of this tired old age we are fast leaving behind in our wake have some huge karma accounts to clear out. They know who they are, and WE know who they are, and more importantly. They know WE know. The countdown is on and this don’t go in reverse, expect some huge major whistle blowers to support the ever increasing truth vibrations bombarding this planet right now that is forcing the old dark age out of our existence. It’s been a long and tiresome ride for many, and many never made it. They ALL still have a voice and we have the empathy to make them heard. The wheel of destiny is a journey we are all on together, if you sold your soul then there comes a time when the price has to be paid for this.

  9. You are so very, very brave to give your account. I was raped at the age of 12 by a gang. It was in the 1970’s and I truly do not believe that the police believed me at first even though the evidence was there. They caught most of the gang bar two so the other three went to court, and at the tender age of 13, I had to give evidence in front of them. They received non-custodial sentences as two were under the age of 16 and the 17 year old got fined. It has affected my life and I’m now 54, I suffer with depression and have done for years and it didn’t help that my father looked at me with such hate and disgust when I finally got home after my ordeal.
    To me, the men and boys stuck together, as they still do, and I was just someone who had complained instead of just leaving it!
    As for Barbara Hewson’s comments, I am appalled that a woman could say such awful things. I sincerely hope that she never has to go through any kind of sexual abuse but I do hope that she loses many, many clients for saying such unforgivable things!!!

    1. That’s how the patriarchy keeps us down, they indoctrinate women into policing and criticising each other. It’s so sad that at a time when we need solidarity, there ate still women so steeped in in internalised misog

      1. Try that again eh?

        That’s how the patriarchy keeps us down, they indoctrinate women into policing and criticising each other. It’s so sad that at a time when we need solidarity, there ate still women so steeped in in internalised misogyny that they’ll do anything to impress the oppressors and punish their sisters, rather than acknowledge that rape culture is poisoning us.

        Love and kudos to all the survivors here.

  10. I wish I was as strong as you – but I’m ashamed to say after many years I’m a “work in progress”. That is due to the double whammy of being gang raped by a cousin & his friends, and then when I became pregnant as a result my family didn’t believe me. After all, he was a nice public-school chap & you can’t get pregnant from rape !!!
    When will society start to realise – they have to make sexual abuse a stigma against the perpetrators not the victims.
    We’ve had our souls torn out, and made to hate ourselves … the rest of the world joining in just ain’t bl***y fair.

  11. Everyone should send a protect email to her and to SPIKED which published her outrageous and condescending conclusions : and – both organizatiuons need to question whether they arfe wise to back this dubious person. No person,of any age, on Earth should be forced to sufffer ANY VIOLATION of what they value to be THEIR RIGHTS. She needs to read her History a bit closer – and all the problems already created by seedy powerful people who drove reality insane with their PERSONAL SEXUAL NEEDS to promote alongside their POWER roles. She has now proved that she has NO real Wisdom whatsoever. She feeds to pederast psyche – which is the sick culture which brought civilization to its’ knees so many times before – she is an utter disgrace. Her ideas are yet another RAPE on our senses – she might welcome unwanted gropings and violations from seedy people misusing PROFESSIONAL situations to further their uncontrolled needs – civilized and professional people don’t. She is a minority – but there are more like her – also in powerful roles. Shame on her and THEM. Eve – with respect for us all. Pick up your pens to say : pen is penis to stop this dangerous rot in circulation.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very similar to the story of my husband, who was was repeatedly raped and abused by a doctor as a young child.

    To say it is disappointing that Barbara Hewson has written such words is an understatement. The fact that she is in such a position of power makes things so much worse.

    Stay strong xx

  13. Reblogged this on Sheva's Cross of Change Blog and commented:
    i really can identify, as someone who has fought long and hard, to unite people & groups, to allow as much light as possible to be shone on the gross enormity of abuse, and how we have been silenced at every turn…..each time our voices become louder, and we are being heard, a new swerve ball is thrown. I was appalled too by the language the article is drenched in, such derision, scorn, and that she thinks we also need to be humiliated further in courts and have our names published, as an answer, we all know, that will silence still more, it,s up to us that are concious to make sure we do grow a good core of groups, and events and keep ourselves strong. my main aim is to be able to co create some excellent resources for us, that have just never been there…..the fact that we have to go to nspcc is in itself proof that resources are just too thin on the ground, tho there are many, that are not considered for mainstream press, deemed too radical etc. this is why it has also taken so long for the coverups in childrens homes to come to light, and still it could get reburied

  14. I am shocked at Ms Hewson and her view of child abuse.!3 years age of consent,is just a paedophile passport,rape and abuse within the the law.This is evil and stupid.
    I fully support the letter writer,so brave ,and it appears so miss understood by Ms Hewson.I wrote a blog of my abuse,and the trial,please read
    It took me 52 years to get to court,read what happened.

  15. Respect for such an articulate account. That woman seems to me to be mad as a box of frogs and her own chambers has dissociated itself pronto.. I cannot see her posturing as being in any way “intelligent”.

    . I hope you find healing. I have never been abused by paedophiles but have close family members who have worked in child protection, and have had two visits from police re other children who had been abused at two of my children’s schools, where my children had been invited for “sleepovers”. The schools had actually encouraged us to allow this, in slightly different ways, in both cases. In neither case had our kids been targeted, fortunately, but it was a shock, the men were imprisoned, and I do not believe people who say it is rare. Have come across at least a dozen of these ogres just living a fairly normal-type life.

    The two police officers I met on those occasions could not have been more intelligent, sensitive or careful with both us as parents and my children who had to be interviewed, They were impressive and kind individuals, if that is any comfort. I know that that is too late for you, but hopefully progress is being made.

  16. What courage you have to so coherently & eloquently put together this open letter. I am also a victim of abuse & I did go to the police & in spite of a full confession from one of the perpetrators, the CPS STILL didn’t take the case. I was abused & raped between the ages of 3 – 9 & you’re absolutely right – it leaves massive mental scars behind. Maybe if my abusers had been ‘celebrities’ I would have seen some justice. Instead, what I have seen is one of them almost gloating about his arrest experience on YouTube – a right kick in the guts. Barbara Hewson is not representing anyone’s interests but her own. She is shamelessly being a controversial media white to raise her own profile in my opinion.

    Well done to you for being brave & eloquent. Keep the faith x

  17. I wonder how much in kick-backs Barbara Hewson made in attempting to downplay the situation.

    Your experience and others who have commented on here… All of you need to be commended for surviving something truly horrific. Those who commit this sort of crime need to be brought to justice, both in the court room and court of the general public.

    Hewson needs to have her gob sewn shut with fishing wire and I hope her next turd is a hedgehog.

  18. The age of consent is quite low enough.

    The reason to file a complaint is other children.

    It is not about justices. You will never get justice. Nothing can ever make up for the lost years, the damage to your psyche, the lost opportunities because you were too busy trying to just keep it together to take
    advantage of them.

    It is not about revenge either. A few years behind bars is nothing to the damage you suffered. It will not hurt the perpetrator half as much as he hurt you. Nothing can. If he were assaulted in the way that you were, nothing would be gained from that except trauma to everyone else involved, including the person harming him. So it’s not about revenge either.

    It is about other children and what you can do to protect them. The time you spend on the stand is guaranteed to be set you back yet again in terms of your mental health. It is not a chance to be in the spotlight or to revel in victimhood. It is a sacrifice you make so that no one else can be hurt.–even if it is only for a few years. And the reason to do it is because you are the only one who can.

    I wish I could. I wish I had the courage also.

  19. Everyone needs to to complain to the Bar Standards Council about barrister Barbara Hewson as it contravenes paragraph 301 a of the Code of Conduct. Her comments serve to not only prejudice the administration of justice, but bring the profession into disrepute, lowering the confidence of the public in the judicial system.

  20. Increasingly there is a normalisation of peadophilia being pushed around in psychological circles from the likes of Nancy Friday and Experimental Psychologist Susan Clancy who wrote that monstrosity The Trauma Myth stating that sexual abuse trauma does not exist these peadophile enablers are getting bold these days.

  21. “Maybe rape’s not so bad” Barrister Barbara Hewson at it again.

    Barbara Hewson claims we don’t talk enough about victims’ responsibility for rape she attacks victims in a debate on sex assault

    In a debate at the London School of Economics called “Is Rape Different?” Hewson criticized the “ideology of sexual victimization” and expressed doubts about the “long-term damaging effects.” She also argued against rape as a “morally absolutely unambiguous” with the victim “utterly innocent” and the “victimizer … utterly guilty.”

    Barbara Hewson not just a paedophile enabler it seems she a rape apologist to as well.

    Barbara Hewson also disagrees with with historic prosecutions, including those for war criminals dating back as far as the 1940s if Adolf Hitler was alive today he should be jailed for the holocaust.

    A part of me wants to believe she was saying all these things just for attention, or maybe NAMBLA kidnapped her drugged her up brainwashed her as part there campaign and needed a white upper class person from a good social background to state these things on public.

  22. We don’t talk enough about victims. We talk plenty about rape, plenty about who’s fault it is. But how often do we talk about how it affects the daily life of a survivor? Films gratuitously show scenes of rape but hardly ever show the fallout, how the person is affected. I applaud you for writing this. And I would like to add as a survivor it has affected me, everyone of my relationships, my children and it will continue to affect me and my family for the rest of my life. I cannot escape, or run away. And the rapist walks free – probably done the same thing to several other women and there is not much I can do about that. See, the people that blame the women for getting drunk I ask them this — who is the perpetrator going to rape if they didn’t get drunk? Who? The next drunk or otherwise vulnerable girl.

  23. What is Barrister’s Barbara Hewson and Robert Colover ‘s view on Ian Watkins conviction for the attempted rape of a Baby would you Barbara Hewson say ‘rape is not that bad’ Robert Colover would you say the baby ‘egged on’ Ian Watkins .

  24. APA: Classifying pedophilia as a ‘sexual orientation’ was an ‘error’
    For those of you don’t know about this, owing to the subtle pro peadophilia media not talking about it there was an attempt of officially call pedophilia a Sexual Orientation.
    Within days, the APA (American Psychological Association) changed the classification, noting in a press release “’Sexual orientation’ is not a term used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder and its use in the DSM-5 text discussion is an error and should read ‘sexual interest.’
    Calling pedophilia an “orientation” is a step towards normalizing pedophiliac behavior, call me paranoid if you want but I am of the belief that western civilization is being groomed to accept peadophilia.
    I do not believe the APA made an ‘error’ they were merely testing the waters… It’s only a matter of time before peadophila will be fully integrated into our society as a ‘sexual orientation’ and anyone who dares oppose it will be called ‘peadophobic’
    pedophiliac behavior is a choice

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