Getting rape into balance

For the first time I can recall — except in the case of the McCann parents appealing after their ‘kidnapped’ daughter Madeleine — a middle-class victim has spoken on television. This was Sylvia Woosely, now in her 70s, speaking today of being abused from the age of 10 by Sir Clement Freud and subsequently raped by him when she was 18.

I knew Clement Freud when he was an MP and before he was knighted, just as I knew Cyril Smith MP who prolifically abused boys from local authority care homes in several parts of the country, just as I knew Jeremy Thorpe, the homosexual Leader of the Liberal Party who was later prosecuted for the attempted murder of his boy friend.

I ‘knew’ them when I’d met them and talked with them when I was on the National Executive of the Liberal Party 45 years ago. Although they were ‘colleagues’ at the time I obviously didn’t know the slightest thing about their personalities when they were not talking and acting as politicians.

I didn’t like any of them, but then I hadn’t liked one or two more of the eminent Liberal politicians I had met at that time. But the above case and several more ‘liberals’ I have known since have subsequently confirmed in my mind that the more strongly a politician affirms his sincerity and service to the people he represents the more likely he is to be covering for a different personal agenda. Generally, I have become more wary of liberals the older I have grown.

The statement of Sylvia Woosely is, however, a symptom of something even more important.  It was hopefully a step closer to finally removing the bias against victims. Usually when victims are middle-class they refuse to be manipulated by the police or the press for dramatic performances at press conferences.  So we are often left with victims who cannot adequately articulate just exactly what has happened to them and their effect.  Many, if not most, of appeals by victims turn out to be embarrassingly emotive — and, sometimes, falsely so by the perpetrators themselves!

Today, Sylvia Woosley, clearly and quietly, sitting all by herself without a panoply of others around her, spoke about the lifelong guilt, sense of isolation and unhappiness that Freud’s attentions — more brutal, it would seem, than usual — had had on her. That brief clip has had more effect in my mind about the seriousness of power-sex and rape than anything similar I can remember.

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