A Scottish MP has told a House of Commons debate on violence against women that she was raped at the age of 14, moving colleagues to tears and declaring: “I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.” Michelle Thomson, who was elected as an SNP member but withdrew from the party whip last year, told parliament: “When I was 14, I was raped. “As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me. He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and in those days everybody walked everywhere. It was quite common to do that. “It was early evening. It wasn’t dark. I was wearing – I’m imagining, I’m guessing – jeans and a sweatshirt. He told me he wanted to show me something in a wooded area and at that point, I must admit, I was alarmed. I did have a warning bell – but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place. “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.” Thomson added: “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 he was stronger than me, and there was no sense even initially of any sexual desire from him, which I suppose, looking back, again I find odd.” The MP said she had felt “absolutely numbed” and ashamed but told no one about the incident.
“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 added: “I felt I was spoiled and impure and really felt revulsion towards myself. “I, of course, then detached from the child up to then I had been. Although, in reality, at the age of 14 it was probably the start of my sexual awakening, at that time, remembering back, sex was something that men did to women and perhaps this incident reinforced that early belief.” During the debate, a second MP recounted how she had been subject to an attempted rape and slept with a knife afterwards. Tracy Brabin, who was recently elected in Batley and Spen, succeeding the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, said: “I was 20 and the worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to me was about to take place. I was going to be one of those very rare statistics of a woman who is attacked by a stranger, not by someone she knows. “I was in my second year at university. The man had seen me walk past his car and had waited ahead for me to turn the corner. As I came up against him all those words of advice your mum gives you – knee him where it hurts then run like hell – well, they disappeared. I was frozen in fear. The former Coronation Street actor added: “As he shoved me to the ground trying to rape me, I fought back but I was battered. It was only the community-spirited Indian neighbour further down the road that saved me from something much worse.”
The MPs shared their personal stories as part of a debate to mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. A new tally of violence against women in England and Wales disclosed this week that more than 900 women had been killed by men over a six-year period, most by their current or former partners. Before the parliamentary session, more than 70 Labour MPs wrote to Theresa May asking that the government immediately ratify the Istanbul convention, an international agreement aimed at ending violence against women. The letter, organised by the Labour MP Seema Malhotra, notes that when she was home secretary May promised to tackle domestic violence and establish a cross-departmental strategy on tackling violence against women and girls, and that her government spoke out about such matters. “But, as we are sure you will agree, words are not enough,” it continues, adding that violence against women perpetrated by a partner or acquaintance increased rapidly between 2009 and 2014, as did reports of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. “Funding for staff who provide individual and tailored support for victims of violence to rebuild their lives and seek prosecution of their abusers is being cut,” the MPs say. “We believe that by their actions (and failures to act), your ministers are failing to deliver on your commitment to tackling sexual abuse and violence. We are therefore asking you to take leadership on these issues immediately.” Thomson, one of the cohort of SNP MPs elected following the nationalists’ gains in the 2015 general election, withdrew from the party whip last September 2015 after being linked to possible mortgage fraud. The party’s then business spokesperson said she had always acted within the law following confirmation from Police Scotland that it was investigating alleged irregularities in a series of property deals after the MP’s solicitor was struck off for professional misconduct.