Stop Giving Rapists the Royal Stamp of Approval

Westminster Abbey claimed that failing to fly the flag at half mast in tribute to King Abdullah would, "make a noticeably aggressive comment." Actually, I don't think it would be aggressive enough.

The furore over Saudi Arabia's most recent human rights atrocities was just dying down, when up popped Saudi historian Saleh al-Saadoon to say that Western women don't care if they're raped at the roadside.

The lashings of Raif Badawi and the beheading of Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim hit the headlines in early January, but it was the death of King Abdullah that focused the West's attention on Saudi Arabia's human rights violations under his rulership.

The decision to fly the Westminster Abbey flag at half mast in mourning and the trip made by Prince Charles, to pay his respects, were seen by some as stamping the royal seal of approval on a regime that bans women from driving and dictates that they obtain male permission to travel, get married and enrol in higher education. Louise Mensch tweeted, "I am literally crying right now. One UK leader, just one, has stood for women and free speech today." She was referring to Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who wrote off the half mast flags as, "a steaming pile of nonsense."

This isn't the first time the Royal family has tacitly condoned a disturbing attitude towards women. Jim Davidson is well documented as having been violent towards his then wife Alison Holloway, yet following the marriage, Prince Charles awarded him an OBE.

Reports state that Davidson kicked Holloway down the stairs and smashed her ribs with a metal bar. Awarding him an OBE makes this seem ok, as if doing charity work gives you license to assault women. Prince Charles is named by Debrett's in their list of the UK's most influential people, so Abdullah's regime and Davidson's domestic violence are endorsed by association.

Holloway explains in reference to Davidson, "Every time Prince Charles shakes his hand, every time the Tories ask him for support, they are condoning his actions. They are saying everything about you is OK... Every time he appears on TV there's a husband slapping his wife around somewhere and we are effectively saying it's OK to do this."

Prince Charles and the Queen - who Charles represented when he offered his condolences in Saudi - aren't the only Royal family to give a cloak of respectability to abusers. Hollywood royalty has given a big thumbs up to self-confessed child rapist Roman Polanski and convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

Polanski, lest we forget, was arrested for drugging and raping a 13 year old girl in Los Angeles in 1977. The victim, Samantha Gailey, "testified that she repeatedly said no but that he did not stop, committing numerous sexual acts as she protested." One of these acts was sodomy. Polanski avoided prison by fleeing the United States and has since lived and worked in Europe, in the countries least likely to extradite him.

Polanski has been buffered by Hollywood royalty such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Harvey Weinstein. Despite being on the run for sex crimes against a child, Polanski has continued to make films and people continue to watch them. He's even won an Oscar. The nod from Hollywood royalty means that Polanski's anal rape of a child is swept under the carpet.

Boxing heavyweight Mike Tyson was divorced by his first wife, Robin Givens, on the grounds of alleged domestic violence. He was later convicted of raping 18 year old Desiree Washington and spent three years in prison. Hollywood rubber stamped him, giving him a role interacting with A-listers in The Hangover and his own Warner Bros. cartoon in which he solves crimes with his fictional 18 year old adopted daughter Yung Hee.

It's presented as perfectly plausible that cartoon-Tyson should hang out with a teenage girl, the same age as the one he was convicted of raping. And of course, we're all cool with convicted rapists adopting children, right? Depicting Tyson as a cartoon character, in itself presents him as harmless, humorous and likeable - a big old toothless tiger! But of course, he's not.

Tyson has even had the backing of pop royalty Madonna, who invited him to collaborate with her on a track. Her Madgesty, who's been named by one study as, "the most influential woman in history," has the Midas touch, able to turn a convicted rapist into a mainstream success. Tyson's said, "Doing the song with Madonna makes me think this [music career] could really happen."

Westminster Abbey claimed that failing to fly the flag at half mast in tribute to King Abdullah would, "make a noticeably aggressive comment." Actually, I don't think it would be aggressive enough. With a Saudi TV pundit now openly asserting that women have so little autonomy, their rape is only an issue in the context of society and religion (as opposed to a horrendous violation of the woman herself) - and that for Western women, existing outside this particular context, "it's no big deal," we need to make a stand far stronger than the absence of a lowered flag. It's time we stopped giving rapists the Royal stamp of approval.

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