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Cheltenham Borough Councillor Barbara Driver slammed for 'repulsive' rape reference

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

Cheltenham Borough Councillor Barbara Driver slammed for 'repulsive' rape reference

Conservative Councillor Barbara Driver who represents Lansdown

Comments (21)

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.

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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.”

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21 comments

  • whatagreatday  |  April 16 2014, 1:07PM

    Not sure which is worse, the former mayor of Cheltenham, Barbara Driver making such a hideous comment or the recently sacked mayor of Swindon, Nick Martin saying "Are we still letting Mongols have sex with each other?" What is the matter with these types?

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  • newellfisher  |  April 13 2014, 1:32PM

    What disgusting rape apology from the last commenter

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  • migrantsparty  |  April 13 2014, 8:40AM

    People do not know what rape is and what is not rape in Britain. Authorities confused on this matter. There is rape and there is having unwanted sex, these are two different things, one is crime and the other is not. For example, if a person working as a prostitute and someone force that person to have sex, this is not rape, this is having unwanted sex. It is wrong to call this as a rape. Another example, married people cases, or partner cases, when there is sexual act and the person doesn't want, this should be called having unwanted sex. Another example, if someone goes out in the middle of night, visit a night club, pubs, places like that, meet someone invite that person home, when the door is closed, government can not intervene with their sex life. When they have sex and one doesn't want to have sex, this can not be called rape, this is called having unwanted sex. To establish sexual act as rape, these conditions should be examined. 1. Did the parties have sexual relationship before? 2. Do the person keep herself/himself for one person or have casual sex regularly? 3. Did the person use physical violence? 4. Where did they meet, what did they do before. To call a sexual act as a rape. The person should keep himself/herself for one person and not have causal sex regularly or never have sex before. Where and how it happened, how things developed should also be taken into account. People should not be sent to prison in unwanted sex cases. There should be fine, and person may be banned approaching the victim again. I am sure former mayor of Cheltenham advised people in having unwanted sex cases. She is free to express her opinion why do people show so much reaction? She doesn't need to apologise.

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  • gallopingbear  |  April 12 2014, 5:08PM

    This has blown up to ridiculous proportions. This story has had more coverage than the poor 16 year old who died last week. There's so much evil in the world, and yet society rounds on a kind, charismatic, elderly lady who has used the wrong phrase in trying to get the best deal for Cheltenham. Maybe we should have some concern for her emotional well being. Yours sincerely, Rape victim, suicide survivor, rational human being.

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  • verysceptical  |  April 11 2014, 10:11PM

    @Suicide Crisis unfortunately this woman, and her ilk, seem to believe that they can hide their stupidity behind their old age and potential "confusion" that this brings. Sadly she won't be deselected or resign from her post because those that could put pressure on her to do so are equally ignorant of hurt and upset their words often cause.

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  • Suicide Crisis  |  April 11 2014, 5:57PM

    We are profoundly shocked to read the comment "When rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it". A significant number of our clients, in the past few months, have been victims of rape, thus demonstrating the devastating effect that rape has on a person's life. There have been a number of rape victims nationally who have completed suicide. Barbara's comment shows a total failure to grasp the deeply traumatic impact of rape. We are sure that many readers will have found it extremely distressing to read. We found it extremely distressing to read.

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  • badger12  |  April 11 2014, 3:39PM

    Cllr. Driver - when the demise of your political career is inevitable, just sit back and enjoy it!

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  • GlosterGal  |  April 11 2014, 12:44PM

    With all the news about building on green fields, we could say that we are "raping the countryside" which has an altogether different meaning to the sexual one.

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  • CaptCX  |  April 11 2014, 12:14PM

    There is a very enlightening sub-plot to this story if anyone takes the time to look......................The article makes a direct reference to, a developer's ability to tell a council how many affordable homes it is willing to build on a specific site". In other words, despite the fact that any Council led 'Planning Committee' might tell us all that Cheltenham needs circa 30000 new homes, it apparently doesn't have the power to say what the specification of those homes should be. Shouldn't that be seen as frightening in the extreme? Take a look around any housing estate around Cheltenham, Brockworth, Bishops Cleeve or Churchdown and take note of just how many 3, 4 and 5 bedroom houses there are for sale. In fact, you don't even have to do that - from the comfort of your own home, just Google 'Estate Agents, Cheltenham' and then have a look at the houses of that spec that they have on offer. If you look through all of them, it will take you quite some time. What this means is fairly obvious isn't it? We don't need 30000 more such properties around Cheltenham!! If we do need further developments, what we need are smaller, more affordable houses, that young couples and families on lower incomes can afford - but these aren't the properties that the developers WANT to build, so we won't get them! And apparently, our Council are powerless to stop them!! So when they talk about us 'needing' 30000 new houses, you've got to wonder exactly what they mean by the word 'need'. You also need to think exactly what it was that was meant by Barbara Driver when she made her rape analogy............When she said "you should lie back and enjoy it", exactly what was she saying they should enjoy? Maybe I'm over-cynical, but the first thing that popped into my mind was financial back-handers.

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  • CaptCX  |  April 11 2014, 10:18AM

    In partial defence of Barbara Driver, she is from a generation where jokes about rape were pretty common - the mother of an ex-girlfriend of mine used to do it all of the time and I remember that, even as a 16 year old, I felt uneasy about it as it just felt 'wrong'. However, I think that when you are in public office, keeping abreast of things that might once have been acceptable, but no longer are, is part of your duty. Consequently, I think that she should resign.

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