The past week has seen yet another rape in Glasgow city centre, this time of a woman who was assaulted by three men, having been dragged into a back lane after a night out with friends.
The outrage and shock
which followed the assault has been compounded by remarks made by Conservative
MSP Bill Aitken, in the course of a conversation with the Sunday
Herald. Far from expressing concern for the woman’s welfare, or that she
could be seized so brazenly, Mr Aitken’s immediate focus centred on her
behaviour and the suspicions he ascribed to her geographical location. He was
far more inclined to wonder if she had been engaged in prostitution than to
worry that she had been very seriously sexually assaulted. When challenged later
about what he had said, Mr Aitken at first tried to deny his remarks, but when
faced with a transcript,
later felt compelled to apologize to the woman and her family.
Sadly his instinct and willingness to call into question the behaviour of a woman who was raped rather than to question what her attackers might have done is very common indeed. Such prejudices are frequently seen in the course of rape trials and are often a major factor in the decisions of the great many women who feel that they cannot report the appalling sexual assaults committed against them. When cases do get to court, the very same prejudices can seriously hamper the justice process for women.
However, where we do not expect to find these views are on the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament, and when we hear them from the mouth of the Convenor of the Committee himself, we really have to ask ourselves if that really is the best we can do for the women of Scotland?
Published: 18th February 2011