Scotland politics

MP Michelle Thomson describes being raped as a teenager

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Media captionMPs listen in silence as Michelle Thomson recalls the "shame" she felt after being raped as a teenager

A Scottish MP has moved colleagues to tears after revealing in the House of Commons that she was raped at the age of 14.

Michelle Thomson told MPs that she was "not a victim, I'm a survivor."

She shared her personal story during a Commons debate focused on UN International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.

Ms Thomson was comforted by SNP members at the end of her speech, which left Speaker John Bercow visibly moved.

During the same debate, Labour MP Tracy Brabin recounted how a man attempted to rape her when she was at university aged 20.

Ms Thomson told the debate that she had been raped, "as is common", by someone who was known to her.

'Wooded area'

The MP added: "He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and in those days everybody walked everywhere, it was quite common to do that.

"It was early evening, it wasn't dark. I was wearing - I'm imagining, I'm guessing - jeans and a sweatshirt."

Ms Thomson said she knew the area but they went a slightly different way, noting: "I didn't think anything of it.

"He told me he wanted to show me something in a wooded area and at that point, I must admit, I was alarmed. I did have a warning bell - but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.

"To be honest, looking back, at that point I don't think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about."

Image caption Ms Thomson was comforted by colleagues after speaking

Ms Thomson added: "It was mercifully quick and I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realised I quite simply couldn't escape - because he was stronger than me, and there was no sense even initially of any sexual desire from him, which I suppose, looking back, again I find odd."

She said that afterwards she walked home alone crying, cold and shivering as she was in shock.

Ms Thomson said: "I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father, I didn't tell my friends and I didn't tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me.

"I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant so that would force a situation to help me control it."

'Sadness and bitterness'

Ms Thomson said she felt "ashamed" that she had "allowed this to happen to me", debating internally what had happened.

Ms Thomson said she later told a school boyfriend, who was "supportive", but that she had carried feelings of "guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness" for many years.

She said she felt a "duty" to tell husband when she got married 12 years later, but it was only when she was in her mid-40s that she took steps to get some help.

Image caption Speaker John Bercow was visibly moved by what he heard

Ms Thomson said the rape "fatally undermined" her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth, but that despite this she is "blessed" in her life and happily married for 25 years.

She said she thought carefully before deciding to share her story, adding: "There is still a taboo about sharing this kind of information and certainly for people of my generation - it is truly shocking to be talking in public about this sort of thing."

Power and control

She said could not bring herself to tell her mother, who died of cancer, about the rape - noting this was "possibly cowardly" but "an act of love" to protect her.

Ms Thomson said she now knows rape is not about sex but power and control - and also a "crime of violence", as she questioned myths of rape perpetuated from a male perspective.

She told the Commons: "A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone he feels he can control. Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim."

Ms Thomson said she had encountered "other aggressive actions" towards her in business and politics.

She concluded: "One thing I realise now is I'm not scared and he was. I'm not scared, I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour MP Tracy Brabin said she had been attacked by a stranger when she was 20

Mr Bercow, the Speaker, said Ms Thomson's words had left an "indelible impression upon us all".

Ms Thomson, the MP for Edinburgh West, is currently sitting as an independent after withdrawing from the SNP whip amid a police investigation into controversial property deals.

Later in the debate, former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin, the recently-elected Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said she slept with a knife after a stranger attempted to rape her when she was 20.

Ms Brabin said she counted herself as "one of the lucky ones" and that the perpetrator was brought to justice.

She added: "I was in my second year at university, the man had seen me walk past his car and had waited ahead for me to turn the corner.

"As I came up against him all those words of advice your mum gives you - knee him where it hurts then run like hell - well they disappeared, I was frozen in fear.

"As he shoved me to the ground trying to rape me, I fought back, but I was battered.

It was only the community-spirited Indian neighbour further down the road that saved me from something much worse."

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