Content note: this post discusses child sexual abuse and rape apologism, quoting examples
It’s early in the day, I know, but it will be a difficult task to find something worse than this. In fact, it had managed to be the worst thing I’d read today at 12.15am. It really is that bad.
The BBC have decided to rather innocuously title what followed with “Age of consent should be 13, says barrister“. Well, I thought, stupidly clicking. They’re probably wrong for the usual reasons that adults calling for the age of consent to be lowered are wrong, but surely this can’t be too bad?
How wrong I was. Barrister Barbara Hewson, who writes in weeping syphilitic chode publication Spiked, has written something which follows the standard Spiked line–vicious, nasty, rape apologistic, wrong, and thinking it’s oh-so-clever. Brendan O’Neill himself, king of the chodes, would be proud. Being so desperately attention-seeking, I’m not actually going to link to the Spiked article, because fuck them and all the horses they rode in on.
Let’s take a look at Hewson’s opening gambit:
I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.
Yes, that’s right. Someone who is ostensibly a barrister believes that the function of Yewtree was not to finally–decades too late–investigate institutional abuse of children. Rather, it was to persecute those poor old men.
The thing is, if the numerous institutions who knew about this–and, at best, did nothing–had fucking done something at the time, nobody would be arresting old men. The reason the men being investigated are old is because decades passed before anyone survivors were able to make their voices heard.
Next up, Hewson goes for the standard Spiked editorial line of arguing with imaginary Victorians who have teleported into the 21st century, pausing to give us a history lesson that some actual Victorians raised the age of consent to 16 based on the fact that puberty back then happened at 15, and that this was basically just the result of some sort of “moral panic”. Yes. Hewson actually thinks it was a little bit excessive to criminalise having sex with girls who had not yet hit puberty.
Following a long-winded whine about how much she hates the NSPCC, Hewson explicitly states that she doesn’t think survivors should use the courts to speak out:
The acute problems of proof which stale allegations entail also generates a demand that criminal courts should afford accusers therapy, by giving them ‘a voice’. This function is far removed from the courts’ traditional role, in which the state must prove defendants guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
I am not exactly sure how one can do this without letting survivors speak, but whatever. This lady is a barrister and in its own way, this point lays bare how woefully inadequate this sham of a justice system is in dealing with sexual violence.
In amid dismissing historic instances of sexual violence as merely “misdemeanours”, Hewson also decides to declare that only some sexual violence is worthy. And guess what? It’s pretty much that faulty folk notion where a man leaps out of a bush and rapes a virgin.
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.
Apparently putting your hands on a young person who does not want to be touched are not the same as gang rape and are therefore, according to Hewson, OK. I am not letting this person anywhere near children.
So what are Hewson’s recommendations? Oh dear, they’re awful.
As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.
In short, Barbara Hewson wants to make it as difficult as possible for survivors to come forward, and make it as easy as possible for powerful men to rape young people. It is absolutely clear that her justification for lowering the age of consent is simply to make it slightly less illegal for men like Jimmy Savile to rape them. To Hewson, age is the only matter here: if one is over the age of consent and not being attacked and raped by a stranger, it isn’t rape.
Which actually makes her a pretty shitty lawyer on top of writing something so hideously unpleasant.
As for the statute of limitations, this reduces the possibility of survivors coming forward, decades later, when it is safe, because apparently Hewson wants a legal system where it is as unsafe as possible to come forward. This is exacerbated by her call to remove anonymity for complainants, a point which appeared nowhere else in her argument. It is not a non-sequitur, though: it is clear that her purpose is to protect men who perpetrate sexual violence.
It always shocks me when I see something so awful as Hewson’s piece. I sometimes catch myself feeling somewhat optimistic, as though the battle against rape culture, while gory, will be one we can win. These fragile hopes are dashed where I see a person arguing from a position of power that the law should find new ways to silence survivors and keep them vulnerable. Make no mistake: our enemy is huge, and there is a whole army of those, like Hewson, who are complicit.
And so the fight goes on, bigger than ever. Yet I will not rest. I do not want to see these bastards win.