Councillor denies victim blaming after Finsbury Park rape report

Cllr Sheila Hancock has been criticised for "victim-blaming" after a rape allegation in Finsbury Park

Cllr Sheila Hancock has been criticised for "victim-blaming" after a rape allegation in Finsbury Park - Credit: Google/Archant

Haringey Council's former mayor Cllr Sheila Peacock has denied victim blaming after querying why an alleged rape victim was in Finsbury Park. 

Cllr Peacock (Lab, Northumberland Park) served as mayor of Haringey most recently in the year to October 2020. She has been a councillor since 1994.

In an email to all Haringey councillors responding to reports a woman was raped in Finsbury Park in the early hours of Wednesday June 23, she wrote: "Can one dare ask what she was doing in the early hours of the morning walking in a deserted park?"

The email was criticised immediately in a response by council leader Cllr Peray Ahmet, who said the comments were "out of order" and asked Cllr Peacock to apologise. 

Speaking to the Ham&High, Cllr Peacock said she had done so, and added: "I haven't said anything wrong, there's nothing bad. I just wanted to know why she was going to work.

Asked whether she had meant to blame the victim in this case, the councillor added: "No, not at all." 

Cllr Peacock said she had apologised, but that there had been no ill-intent.

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She said: "I didn't say anything bad. If other people have bad thoughts in their minds that's down to them not to me."

Cllr Julia Ogiehor, the opposition Lib Dem group's community safety spokesperson, added: "We are appalled by Cllr Peacock's comments, which seek to place blame on the victim. No woman should feel they are to blame for the actions of their attacker."

Cllr Ahmet added: "This Labour Council is determined to do all it can to make our streets and open spaces safe for every single woman and girl who lives, learns and works here in Haringey. There is clearly much more that we need to do to help prevent violence against women.

“We will be working with the police and other agencies to improve safety for women and girls, with a focus on developing a coordinated community response, prevention, support for survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable. 

“I have made it clear that I will not lead a council where victim-shaming is tolerated. Our streets should be safe for everyone – and no one should be in any doubt that the focus needs to be on perpetrators.”

Deniz Uğur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We really need to finally shift the way we talk about violence against women and girls to spotlighting the behaviour of violent men, and not focus on where a woman is, what she is doing or what she might be wearing as any kind of excuse or justification for sexual violence”

A man was arrested on suspicion of rape on June 24 – though police continue to seek witnesses who could help the investigation.

To share information or dashcam footage with the Met call 101 with CAD reference 446/23JUN.