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Sarah Caden: How Chrissie Hynde deals with her rape is up to her


Chrissie Hynde attending the NME Awards 2015 with Austin, Texas at the O2 Brixton Academy, London.

Chrissie Hynde attending the NME Awards 2015 with Austin, Texas at the O2 Brixton Academy, London.


Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde


Chrissie Hynde attending the NME Awards 2015 with Austin, Texas at the O2 Brixton Academy, London.

When Chrissie Hynde was 21, she was raped by a gang of Hell's Angels. Last week, in an interview to promote her new autobiography, Reckless, Hynde talked about the rape and took "full responsibility" for what happened. By doing so, Hyde, as she put it in an interview later in the week, became "a leading authority on rape".

"Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility," the 62-year-old Pretenders front woman said last week.

"You can't f*** about with people, especially people who wear 'I Heart Rape' and 'On Your Knees' badges . . . Those motorcycle gangs, that's what they do. You can't paint yourself into a corner and then say, 'Whose brush is this?' You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive.

"If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk, who else's fault can it be?" Hynde continued. "If I'm walking around and I'm very modestly dressed and I'm keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I'd say that's his fault. But if I'm being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who's already unhinged - don't do that. Come on! That's just common sense.

"You know, if you don't want to entice a rapist, don't wear high heels so you can't run from him. If you're wearing something that says, 'Come and f*** me', you'd better be good on your feet...

"I don't think I'm saying anything controversial, am I?"

Oh but she was and oh how she found out fast - and mostly from women who, before they dissected and expressed dismay and disgust at Hynde's comments, first said how they'd always been fans.

They had, many said, always admired Hynde as an ahead-of-her-time woman in a man's rock 'n' roll world, a woman who has always, doggedly, gone her own way.

And they were disappointed in her now for encouraging rape victims to blame themselves, for discouraging rape victims from coming forward and running the risk of taking the blame.

But what Chrissie Hynde was talking about in last week's interview was very specifically about herself.

She wasn't saying that every woman who wears high heels runs the risk of getting raped. Nor was she saying that sensible shoes and clothes will protect you from rape. She's not stupid, maybe she's just coping.

If this is how she has found a way to cope with what happened to her, then is she supposed to shut up because it sends the wrong message to everyone else? Is she not allowed to cope in any way she can? And if we say, 'Okay, that's your way but shut up about it,' then aren't we taking her experience from her?

You can take Chrissie Hynde's comments as a bad message to women who have been raped.

But if you don't let her have her own opinions and feelings about her own experience, then is that telling women there's one way to feel about this and if you don't feel that way, then shut up?

And maybe it's that inability to talk about the really difficult layers of what rape is and how and why it happens that has us so locked into there being one permitted way to publicly talk about it.

And maybe that, too, is what stops us from exploring why, for example, we worry about our daughters going out in skin-tight, short dresses and getting drunk. Because we do. But we can't say we do.

Chrissie Hynde did last week what she has always done. She's a woman who has always refused to call herself a feminist, because she finds the label limiting. "I don't care about women as such," she said in 2003. "I care about human relations, human behaviour."

As the controversy over her comments rolled into last week, Chrissie Hynde continued to promote her book and found that, really, all anyone wanted to talk about was her position on rape. She pointed out that she was talking for herself and that this was a small incident compared to the death of Aylan Kurdi.

"At the moment, we're in one of the worst humanitarian crises in our lifetime," she said to The Washington Post late last week, "and we're talking about comments that I allegedly made about girls in their underwear."

In saying that, Hynde reasserted that she wasn't interested in taking a position on rape in general, but that this was what had happened to her. It wasn't about girls in their knickers, it was about her in her knickers.

Maybe Chrissie Hynde was naive last week to think you can talk about your own rape as a single act. Maybe all talk about rape is about every rape. But that's not how Chrissie Hynde is prepared to play it. She's going her own way.

"I'm not a philosopher," she said to The Washington Post. "I'm just a rock singer. And now a leading authority on rape."

Sunday Independent