Rape crisis centre calls for media code after George Hook show

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has called for media guidelines on the discussion of sexual assault following controversial comments by Newstalk presenter George Hook last week, writes Joe Leogue and Elaine Loughlin.

Mr Hook is under fire for comments he made on his programme on Friday about a case of alleged rape in the UK.

The case involved a young woman who met a UK Olympic swimmer on a night out, and returned to his hotel room where they had consensual sex. However, it was alleged that the man then left the room, and another swimmer came in and raped the woman.

Discussing the case on-air, Mr Hook said there were “questions” about the alleged victim’s account.

“Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him.

“She has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, no idea what dangers he might pose.

“But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?” he said.

Mr Hook and Newstalk have both since apologised for the comments.

“It was unacceptable to suggest in any way that blame could be attributed to victims of rape. I apologise for the comments which caused hurt and offence, and for this I am truly sorry,” said Mr Hook.

Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre told This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 that an experienced broadcaster like Mr Hook should know better, and that there is still a view among some “that men have a God-given right to rape and it’s a woman’s job to stay out of their way”.

She said such comments could prevent rape victims from coming forward.

“Rape doesn’t happen because of what you’re wearing, because of the amount you’ve drunk, rape happens because somebody has sex with you without your consent,” she said.

“What we should do now is ask all media outlets to really understand, come together, build guidelines, build awareness in their stations. [RTÉ], Newstalk, all the others are very influential, she said, and ‘we believe that it is high time that we had guidelines’, Ms Blackwell said.

Commenting on the controversy, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said calls for Newstalk to sack Mr Hook were “a matter for the radio station”.

“It would certainly make me a lot less likely to listen to George Hook,” he said.

“Those sort of comments do actual harm and they are not acceptable,” he said.

The Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted on 1800 778 888.

Controversial

This is not the first time George Hook has been criticised for his comments on rape.

In 2015, a woman who was raped by her boyfriend in her sleep hit out at Hook after he suggested that there was an “implied” consent.

In July 2015, Magnus Meyer Hustveit, previously of Leo St, North Circular Rd, Dublin, received a seven-year suspended sentence at the Central Criminal Court having pleaded guilty to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault, between 2011 and 2012.

The Court of Appeal subsequently ruled the sentence was unduly lenient and handed down a

15-month custodial sentence.

His victim, Niamh Níc Dhomhnaill waived her right to anonymity to raise awareness of sexual assault.

However, speaking on Newstalk at the time, Hook questioned whether Ms Níc Dhomhnaill “implied” consent because she shared a bed with her boyfriend. “You go into a relationship with somebody be it marriage or be it you’re living with somebody. So now you’re sharing a bed with somebody, yes? And obviously sexual congress takes place on a regular basis because you’re living with somebody. Now is there not an implied consent, therefore that you consent to sexual congress?”

Ms Níc Dhomhnaill described Hook’s comments as “crass, outdated, and insulting”. Hook said it was not his intention to be insensitive. “I never said, and would never say, that a man has implied consent from the woman with whom he shares a bed,” he said.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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