Tuesday 26 September 2017

Dominique Meehan: 'George Hook's comments were painful and can't be forgiven'

Dominique Meehan has emerged as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence in recent months. In June, Keith Hearne was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the raping her in a hotel during a gaming conference. Here she reflects on George Hook's comments about rape for which he issued a fresh apology on Monday.

Dominique Meehan
Dominique Meehan

Dominique Meehan

As someone who has survived rape I don't accept George Hook's apology because it is simply too big a "mistake" to make.

It shouldn't have happened in the first place and he should know better. It is really as simple as that.

Not only that but I would throw the book at him and take him off the air.

What if he says that again and they have to issue another apology? He went too far and the stakes are too high.

His comments, which suggested there was an element of "personal responsibility" when it came to instances of rape, suggesting women should take precautions to avoid being raped, hurt too many people. The statistics are clear 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence, that is a quarter of our female population that were affected by this. One in 33 men are also affected.

I have no sympathy for him whatsoever, he is a man in his 70s who has been on the radio for a number of years and he should have known better.

When I heard his comments and I saw a prominent voice in the media saying that I had a responsibility not to get raped, it was so painful.

It was hurtful to think that he thought I could have stopped Keith Hearne raping me. That's what every other rape survivor is going to be thinking - that they should have done something more or something different - but if you survived a rape you did everything you could. You survived.

That's what I had to keep thinking and the only reason I am still here today is that I convinced myself that it wasn't my fault in the slightest. If I had heard such an influential man saying that I could have stopped my rape or that I was partly to blame in the months after I was attacked, I would have fully believed him and I would not be where I am today. It would have set me back hugely.

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'Truly sorry': Newstalk show host George Hook Photo: David Conachy

There are loads of men and women already wrongly blaming themselves for their rape, without his comments adding to that myth.

In my case I think I should have sent a text to the security guards but I didn't want to make a show or be embarrassed if Hearne didn't do anything or that I should have left that room earlier, but I didn't.

So I end up thinking that it is somehow my fault that I was raped but that other voice has to come from somewhere to say 'you did nothing wrong'.

For George Hook to try and suggest that women have a responsibility to protect themselves from rape is like saying a murder victim had a hand in their own murder, it's not fair.

Not only that but by saying some of the responsibility lies with the victims, he is sort of saying that his own gender are sex-driven animals and if I were a man I'd be really insulted. Not all perpetrators of sexual violence are men but the majority are.

This idea that women need to protect themselves from such sex driven animals is completely unfair to men. Men are not driven by only the idea of sex and its completely unfair to think that they have no autonomy. That's why rape culture doesn't just affect rape survivors or women it affects men too. There are a very select few men who are rapists and men should be standing up from themselves to say ''This is unfair, I would never rape'.

The response from the public after George Hook's outburst has been fantastic and it is so affirming to see so much positive support from the people of Ireland but we need to build on this momentum to change the conversation around rape for good.

Society doesn't teach us to how to talk about sexual violence and there needs to be media guidelines sorted out quickly which would be a starting point.

It is important to find a new means of speaking about rape so we can challenge the notion some people have of 'oh she was dressed up she was asking for it'.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article contact the Rape Crisis Centre on 1800778888 or log onto  their website
  • You can follow Dominique Meehan on Twitter at: @DominiqueMeehan

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