A Tory MP who claimed short skirts and high heels prevented women getting away from potential rapists has denied he was "victim blaming" and said his comments were about "risk management."
Gloucester MP Richard Graham told the Gloucestershire Citizen on Friday: "If you are a young woman on her own trying to walk back home through Gloucester Park, early in the morning in a tight, short skirt and high shoes and there's a predator and if you are blind drunk and wearing those clothes how able are you to get away?"
But on Monday he said he never intended to take the issue lightly, and said he had been affected deeply by the story of a family member who had been raped.
He said: "I remember being told many years ago by a close family member that she had been raped. I will never forget her words as she told me what happened.
"I owe it to her and all my female constituents never to take this issue lightly."
Jo Wood, a trustee of Rape Crisis England and Wales, commented: "It doesn’t matter if you are off your face and lying naked on a bench – that man takes it upon himself to rape you. We should put the blame back on perpetrators."
Graham's words came as a response to the recent comments from actress Joanna Lumley: "Don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a who came in for heavy criticism when she said "Don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you.
"Either they’ll rape you or knock you on the head or rob you.
"It’s not me being a snob about it. I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly."
Graham said he did not agree with the Ab Fab actress but believed Lumley had been "right to highlight the issue".
"I stressed the issue was about risk management, about being aware of what behaviour or clothes might put you more at risk and less at risk. Risk management is a million miles from saying anything like 'she was asking for it'."
In a blog post in response to the issue, he said: "A night out is about having fun without putting yourself at risk’.
"I stick by these words. When asked more questions by the reporter I gave examples of things – including getting drunk or wearing clothes that are hard to run away in – that might increase rather than reduce risk for young women.
"Encouraging a sensible approach to risk management in no way intimates any excuse for predatory behaviour, let alone rape, and I have asked The Citizen to clarify that and to apologise for claiming that I agreed with Lumley’s views.
"As the father of a 20 year old daughter I rightly have strong views both on the importance of risk management and the hideousness of rape. Let no reader be any doubt about both, and not misled by a misleading article and inappropriate editorial."
Labour MP, Stella Creasy, condemned the comments and said there needed to be a "zero tolerance approach" towards rape. The shadow crime prevention minister said it appeared to be "part of a pattern" from Tory MPs putting the responsibility for rape at the feet of the victims rather than the criminal.
Creasy added that the comments didn't "say much about what these MPs think about men" by suggesting rape was something that could not be helped.
Gloucester's Labour council leader Kate Haigh is organising a 'slut walk' in response to the MP's comments, where women lead a march through the city, dressed in short skirts.
"They should be able to go out, wearing what they want, and feel safe" Haigh told the Gloucester Citizen.
Politicians controversially wading into the rape debate has been a big issue in America too.
Former Missouri Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, claimed last August that women who were the victims of "legitimate rape" rarely became pregnant.
Last October, Indiana's Tea Party Senate candidate, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, claimed pregnancies stemming from rape, however horrible, are "something that God intended to happen".
Neither candidate was re-elected.
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