The worst thing I’ve read today

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.

Update: Looks like Hewson’s chambers are running as quickly as possible in the opposite direction from her.


10 responses to “The worst thing I’ve read today

  • Amy

    Wow, that’s breathtakingly loathsome. I’m pretty sure that even if the young people she’s referring to had been of the age of consent, the “consent” part would still have been important and it still would have been assault. The fact that survivors were afraid to speak out for so long, and are now reporting the trauma they suffered, should be proof enough that real consent wasn’t involved. What Hewson actually seems to long for is a world in which her beloved old men wouldn’t have legally required their victims’ consent at all, whatever age they were. That is something else entirely.

  • spudman101

    Surely we can apply this logic to pretty much any crime?

    Barrister: I put it to the court that he only stabbed a couple of people and it was ages ago and one of them didn’t even die, but Hitler was responsible for the deaths of millions. Also, if we make it legal to kill those people then it wasn’t even a crime. I rest my case.

    And in the line “I do not support the persecution of old men”, I think the word she wants there is ‘prosecution’ not ‘persecution’. I know they sound similar but, as a barrister she really should know the difference.

  • judisutherland

    You are spot on with this. I expect this peculiar statement will be “career limiting” for Ms Hewson. If not, there really ain’t no justice in the world. And apparently the term “complainant” is a term from civil cases, does not apply to the criminal law.

  • Jessica Burde

    For what it’s worth, I think that hope is worth holding onto. Change is like an avalanche, starts slow and if the pressure is kept up eventually becomes unstoppable.
    My partner, who used to make fun of me when I talked about rape culture, is now using his online streaming community as a platform to educate his followers (mostly male teens) about rape culture. It’s a small change, but it’s spreading. We may not see any significant gains even in our own lifetimes, but I believe they will happen.

    As for this situation, the only good I see in it is her chambers saying she is full of shit (in polite legalese, of course). Would mean more if there was some kind of reprimand or if they fired her or something (not sure how possible that would be in the UK), but I’ll take what I can get.

  • Katelyn Jecmen

    This is absolutely disgusting that a woman who by shear position of power opts to throw women young and old under the buss to preserve the liberty of dirty old men who couldn’t keep it in their pants and ruined the lives of an innocent child. The very reason there are age of consent laws is simply put a child does not understand what they would or wouldn’t be consenting to therefore it is not an informed decision on their part. To suggest that a perverted older man can take from them without this informed decision something which they cannot fully understand legally is appauling, this woman should lose her position in the legal system. To every survivor of this abuse I sincerely hope that this womans public statements do not deter you into silence, speak out when you feel you are ready to make your voices heard and make the people who took something from you that you weren’t ready to give pay for their crimes.

    P.S I may be from America but things like this have a tendency to catch like wildfire when not put in check, if it is allowed somewhere else chomo’s around the globe would use this as a defense. I do not want to see this happen in England or any other country.

  • Jan

    I’m staggered by Hewson’s comments, and fact that this poor excuse for a human being is a lawyer just makes her views all the more despicable. If someone so much as put their hand on Hewson’s shoulder without her permission, I’ve no doubt she’d be screaming “sexual harassment” from the rooftops.

    “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”.

    Absolutely spot on.

  • Jonathan

    What an incredible argument: proposing to lower the age of consent because of sexual predators. For me the whole point of the AOC is to give young people legal protection (as much as that’s ever possible) against predators. It’s hard enough prosecuting sexual assault in any case. At least with young people arguments about consent are not an issue because consent can’t legally be given.

    Otherwise, there’s no actual need to lower it. No young people are ever prosecuted in this country (to my knowledge) for indulging in underage sex are they?

  • Roz

    “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.”

    The fact that a person happens to be old by the time they’re finally asked to account for their alleged crimes should really make no difference. Nazi war criminals are now mostly in their 90s but are still being found out. The shocking thing is that after World War II most lived their lives in peace (sometimes even in prosperity stolen from the victims of their crimes) and. yes, their crimes died with them and are now lost to history. So too child abusers.

  • Tras

    “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.

  • Tras

    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.

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