Sunday, August 31, 2008

When a rape case should not go to court, by Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren was engulfed in controversy over the prosecution of date-rapists last night.

In an interview, the actress said women who are raped after willingly going to bed with a man cannot expect their attackers to be charged.

The 63-year-old, who won an Oscar last year for playing the Queen, said date-rape was a 'tricky area' and something men and women had to work out between themselves.

She said she was herself date-raped twice when she was young but did not report the attacks because 'you couldn't do that in those days'.

Her comments brought an angry reaction from Solicitor General Vera Baird, who said it was a 'dangerous' thing to say at a time when rape victims were being encouraged to come forward.

Dame Helen's comments came in an interview with GQ magazine, in which she also admitted she used to 'love' cocaine.

She said that if a woman voluntarily ended up in a man's bedroom, took her clothes off and engaged in sexual activity, she still had the right to say 'no' at the last second.

If the man ignored her, Dame Helen said, that was rape. But she continued: 'I don't
think she can have that man into court under those circumstances. I guess it is one of the many subtle parts of the men-women relationship that has to be negotiated and worked out between them.'

Mrs Baird, who has long fought for the rights of rape victims, said: 'It is a pity, because she is a much-admired person.

'We want women to report rape with the confidence that - albeit slowly - conviction rates are getting better. It really is a shame to cast doubt at the edges of what she thinks might not be rape.'

Dame Helen said young women now were better at standing up for themselves.

'Times have changed,' she said. 'I hate young girls going around beating each other up, but I love the fierceness of young girls nowadays, and the way they just say, '**** off', because I wish I'd been taught to say '**** off' when I was younger. I wish I'd had those words in my arsenal of self-defence.

'Instead, I was polite and didn't have the courage to say that to men who wouldn't accept "no" for an answer. I was very innocent when I went to college in London. I went to a convent school and had never spent a night away from home or gone to parties or any of that.

'I found guys were horrible, mean, rude, insulting, and so without feeling. I was looking for love and for someone who just liked me and I just met all these creeps.'

She recalled: 'I was [date-raped], yes. A couple of times. Not with excessive violence, but rather being locked in a room and made to have sex against my will. It's such a tricky area, isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson [the boxer jailed for raping beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room]. I don't think he was a rapist.'

Dame Helen revealed that she took cocaine until the early 1980s, when she would have been in her late 30s.

She claimed that she only gave up the drug after the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was caught, and found to be making money from the Class A drug.

Asked whether she had ever taken any illegal substances she said: 'A bit of dope when I was younger.'

She added: 'A bit of cocaine. I loved coke. I never did a lot, just a little bit at parties.

'But what ended it for me was when they caught Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, in the early Eighties.

'He was hiding in South America and living off the proceeds of being a cocaine baron.

'And I read that in the paper, and all the cards fell into place and I saw how my little sniff of cocaine at a party had an absolute direct route to this f******* horrible man in South America.

'And from that day I never touched cocaine again. Until that moment I had never grasped the full horrifying structure of what brings coke to our parties in Britain.

Barbie was the head of the Gestapo in Lyon during WWII when he personally tortured prisoners and was said to be responsible for the deaths of at least 4,000 people.

In 1987, at the age of 73, he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity after he was found guilty of 341 separate charges.

In one incident 44 children were rounded up from a farmhouse east of Lyon and sent to their deaths on Barbie's command.

Dame Helen added: 'Not every drug has that structure, of course. Marijuana grown in the back garden is not the same, obviously.

'I hated it (marijuana). Dope always made me feel miserable and paranoid and unhappy. And I woke up one day and thought, no more of that, thank you.'

The actress, who said she shoplifted food when she was younger, has previously admitted once trying the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

The star found the experience - during a stroll in the countryside with a group of bohemian friends while in her 20s - so horrifying she vowed never to touch the drug again.


Latest Posts

Latest Comments