Growing up in a slightly gentler time, I was once very nearly the victim of date rape. I was lucky’


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As the mother of two teenage daughters who, along with most of their peers, both male and female, enjoy clothes and fashion, I sometimes have moments of fear when they head off looking beautiful and, dare I say it?, sexy.

Teenagers, male and female, are often wonderfully, blissfully unaware of just how attractive they are, even those who appear to be vainly pouting in mirrors all day.

Beset by the self-doubt of adolescence, they are blinded to reality.

This is what puts them at such risk, especially in an age when the fashion, for younger women at least, is to wear very few, very short clothes.

As a mother of young women, I am frightened by many issues that may harm them, from unequal pay to sexism.

But among the issues I fear most are the drinking culture and the risk of date rape that can follow from it.

I have good reason.

Growing up in a slightly gentler time, I was once very nearly the victim of date rape.

A man I knew and liked at university got carried away one evening and it was only when I became very shrill and threatening that he stopped.

I was lucky. He still retained some grain of sense and listened to me.

His flat was in a remote part of East London and I doubt anyone in that block would have cared if I’d screamed.

As I speedily left the flat, taking the stairs two at a time with his crying apologies fresh in my ears, I didn’t stop to think about the possible perils of the dark, empty street outside or the long walk to the equally-risky bus stop.

All I cared was that I was out of there. Years later he wrote and apologised. He had a daughter of his own by then.

So, despite the critics who are already braying, it’s some relief to hear men accused of date rape will now need to convince police a woman consented to sex.

This brings major change to the way sex offences are investigated.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, says the legal system should go beyond the concept of “no means no” and recognise situations where women may have been unable to give consent.

Rape victims should not be “blamed” by society if they are too drunk to consent to sex, or if they simply freeze and say nothing because they’re so scared, she has said.

From now on police and prosecutors must put a greater onus on rape suspects to demonstrate how the complainant consented “with full capacity and freedom to do so”.

This is good in theory and a step forward, but how exactly these men are supposed to prove consent was given remains unclear.

Just as I fear for the women who may be at risk of rape, as the mother of a teenage boy I also fear the risk, albeit smaller, of women who make false allegations of rape.

New guidance will be issued to all police forces and prosecutors as part of a “toolkit” to move rape investigations into the 21st century, Ms Saunders said.

I haven’t seen the “toolkit”, but I hope it protects men and women, and especially women who are often accused of “asking for it” by wearing the clothes that have been put into fashion by a society increasingly obsessed with sexualising women and a culture where porn is so normal and easily accessible that school children can, and do, get it on their mobile phones.

Ms Saunders was right to say that for too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent – by drinking or dressing provocatively.

Consent for sex is hardly a grey area – you either agree or not.

Your clothes, or the amount of white wine you’ve drunk don’t come into it.

Until some sections of society and the law stop blaming women for rape, either overtly or covertly, as happens now, the problem will remain.

Universities, schools, colleges and parents could be the first stage of defence against women being raped.

If we teach young people about healthy, safe, consensual relationships where men and women are equal it would be a good start.

Speaking at the first National Crown Prosecution Service/Police Conference on Rape Investigations and Prosecutions in London Alison Saunders said: “We want police and prosecutors to make sure they ask in every case where consent is the issue – how did the suspect know the complainant was saying yes and doing so freely and knowingly?”

This should be asked in any situation where someone is incapacitated through drink or drugs and also where “a suspect held a position of power over the potential victim – as a teacher, an employer, a doctor or a fellow gang member” she warned.

At the moment an estimated 85,000 women a year are victims of rape in the UK, of whom 90% know the perpetrator.

That’s an awful lot of times women aren’t giving consent, and that’s probably only the tip of the unreported iceberg.

Already critics are asking how a suspect will prove consent was given. This certainly may be a problem, especially for those who didn’t get consent.

But it’s pretty easy really. If a woman is too drunk, drugged or scared to agree, or not, don’t climb into bed with her.

If in doubt keep out.

source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/news-opinion/teenagers-male-female-often-wonderfully-8575148


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