A prominent Cheltenham Borough Councillor and former mayor has apologised after saying “when rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it” during a public meeting about housing.
Barbara Driver faced calls for her to resign after she compared a developer’s ability to tell a council how many affordable homes it is willing to build on a specific site to rape.
“There is a saying and I am going to say it: When rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it,” she said.
Mrs Driver, who has served as a Conservative councillor since 1999, apologised for the remarks made at a meeting on Wednesday after her peers condemned what she said in the strongest possible terms.
Councillor Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), is Cheltenham Borough Council’s lead member for safeguarding and in that role he is tasked with helping to protect vulnerable people in the town.
He described Mrs Drivers’ comment as “repulsive” and “atrocious”.
He said: “I think she let herself down and she let the council down.
“It was an atrocious thing to say in the middle of a meeting about housing.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Rowena Hay (LD, Oakley) said she was shocked at the use of the phrase especially since Mrs Driver lead a report looking at sexual exploitation in Cheltenham just last year.
“It is not something I would expect to hear from an experienced councillor in a public meeting that was extremely well attended, particularly from Barbara Driver who championed and lead the sexual exploitation working group,” she said.
“I think the most shocking thing for me is that it trivialises those people who have been through rape and the crisis that causes in those people’s lives.
“Barbara is an extremely hard working councillor and I would never take that away from her.
“Trying to get victims of domestic violence and rape taken seriously has taken years. To have somebody diminish that is just beyond belief.”
Mrs Driver’s comment also provoked fury on Twitter with one person describing what she said as “disgraceful” adding that she “needs to resign after that”.
Another person said the rape comment was “absolutely shocking” while someone else said they were “gob smacked” she said it.
Mrs Driver, who writes a weekly column for the Echo, did not return a call seeking a comment on what she said.
However, the councillor did write an open letter to Cheltenham Borough Council, addressed to the Mayor, Councillor Wendy Flynn, in which she said she realised her remark was “completely inappropriate and thoughtless and should not have been said”.
The letter reads: “I am therefore writing an open letter to the council to offer my sincere apologies for the comment I made.
“As an elected member of the council I believe that on this occasion I have fallen short of the
high standards expected of a councillor and for that I am deeply sorry and I wish to place my
apology on record through this letter.”