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What lessons can we learn from BBC presenter Nick Conrad's comments about women and rape?

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I for one welcome the on-air, public apology Nick Conrad has made after the broadcast of his highly offensive remarks on the issue of Ched Evans, women and rape.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-30125682

I hope in future Mr Conrad will think twice before expressing such offensive opinions live on air. I also hope BBC editorial oversight on this programme will in future be more strictly enforced. There is a clear line between presenters rightly raising difficult yet legitimate issues and the distasteful editorialisation Mr Conrad indulged in. However, as far as I am concerned, the apology means a line has now been drawn under the matter.

But this affair still throws up some very difficult issues that really do need to be confronted head on.

Over the last few days it has been suggested to me politicians should keep out of such matters. That for them to take a public view on such controversial comments is little more than crass political opportunism.

Personally I think some of this sentiment linked to the current 'anti-politics' zeitgeist that has, with some justification, taken popular root. Personally I'm loathe to jump upon so-called 'moral bandwagons'. None of us are perfect, all of us make mistakes, it's part of the human condition. But if moral perfection is required before we can challenge clear wrongs, especially ones made in such a public manner, then progressive social advances would be few and far between.

Admittedly such controversial debates can sometimes take on a less than subtle air of mob rule. Whipped up by often hypocritical tabloids whose main interest is sales, such an atmosphere is not conducive to informed and reasoned debate. I will confess, seeing Nick Conrad's story salaciously plastered across the Daily Mail - hardly a bastion of moral rectitude itself - did not sit easy with me. But that said I do believe those whom originally challenged the comments in question, myself included, did so from genuine concern.

That's because unfortunately Nick's comments reflect a deeper, more widespread societal attitude to rape, and with whom responsibility lies. One that runs deeper than perhaps we would care to admit.

There is a world of difference between advising women to take responsibility for their own safety and demanding they take responsibility for men's sexuality. To my mind and many others it's quite clear - sexual violence belongs squarely with the perpetrator. Never with the victim. The concept of 'no means no' should surely be a straight forward proposition? But apparently, for many, it is not.

It therefore doesn't take an enormous deductive leap to see a potential link between such victim blame and the low levels of rape reporting. Currently only 15% of the 85,000 women and 10,000 men in England and Wales raped every year report the crime to the police.

It wasn't that long ago in this country that homosexuality was a criminal offence and blatant racial discrimination and hatred, commonly seen as acceptable. The reason such attitudes have, by and large changed, is because once commonly held bigotry was repeatedly challenged.

I believe our collective attitude to rape still has a long way to go - as demonstrated by this week's furore. But attitudes are changing.

This year's Norfolk Says No Campaign (24th - 28th November) is one of those occasions where we can collectively challenge such morally dubious attitudes. It's why I'll be supporting it and it's why I believe, despite the media frenzy, some good can yet come from this affair. Especially if it raises the profile of an issue that should be far higher up the political agenda than it currently is.

ENDS 

 

Norfolk Say No:

http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/Safety_emergencies_and_accidents/Community_safety/Domestic_abuse/Norfolk_says_No/index.htm

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