Tears in House of Commons as Michelle Thomson recounts being raped when she was 14
Independent Edinburgh MP Michelle Thomson reduces MPs to tears as she tells of personal ordeal of rape
Michelle Thomson today moved her fellow MPs to tears as she recalled being raped at the age of 14.
Speaker John Bercow said the independent MP had left an “indelible impression” upon the House of Commons as she spoke of the horrific attack.
Thomson was surrounded by SNP members after her speech during a Commons debate on violence against women in which she declared that she was “not a victim, I’m a survivor”.
To a silent chamber, she explained: “I wanted to give a very personal perspective to help people in this place and outside understand one element of sexual violence against women. When I was 14, I was raped.”
Thomson described how a man she knew led her towards a wooded area and attacked her after a youth event one evening.
“To be honest, looking back at that point I don’t think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about. My mother never talked to me about it, I didn’t hear other girls or other women talking about it,” she continued.
“It was mercifully quick, and I remember first of all feeling surprise then fear then horror as I realised I quite simply couldn’t escape, because obviously he was stronger than me.
She said that after the incident she walked home alone crying, cold and shivering, realising quickly that she was in shock.
Thomson said she never told her mother about the incident, and kept it from friends and her father for a number of years.
"I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father, I didn't tell my friends and I didn't tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me,” she said.
"I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant so that would force a situation to help me control it."
She went on to describe how she felt “ashamed" that she had “allowed” the rape to happen.
“I had a whole range of internal conversations about ‘I should have known’, ‘why did I go that way’, ‘why did I walk home with him’, ‘why didn’t I understand the danger’, ‘I deserved it because I was too this, I was too that’. I felt that I was spoiled and impure, and I really felt revulsion towards myself,” she said.
Thomson told her husband of the incident after they got married 12 years later. But the 51-year-old said she only sought help in her mid-40s.
She said: “As an adult, of course I now know rape is not about sex at all. It’s all about power and control, and it is a crime of violence.
"I still pick up on where the myths of rape are perpetuated from a male perspective. Surely you could have fought them off? Did you scream loudly enough? The idea that some men would suggest that a woman giving subtle hints, or is making it up, is outrageous.
"These assumptions put the woman at the heart of cause, when she should be at the heart of effect.
“A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone he feels he can control. Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.
“We women, and our society, have to stand up for each other. We have to be courageous. We have to call things out and say where things are wrong. We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons.
"Like many women of my age, I have on occasion encountered other aggressive actions towards me, both in business and in fact in politics. But one thing I realise now is that I’m not scared and he was. I’m not scared, I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor.”
MPs comforted Thomson as she completed her speech, and Speaker Bercow appeared visibly moved as he commented: “I thank the honourable lady for what she has said and the way in which she said it, which has left an indelible impression upon us all.”
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