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Shame, sex, violence and race in 1980s London – and today

The student Ione Wells’s account of being attacked on the street summoned painful memories

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

I was riveted to read about Ione Wells, an Oxford student, aged 20, who was savagely attacked on a London street. She then wrote about the experience for her university paper and has now hit the national news, prompting other students to write about their experiences too. Ione has kick-started her career as a journalist, and discovered that a woman reporter can often do well by cannibalising her own life, as long as she is a good writer, which Ione seems to be.

Her story was interesting to me because in 1982, just after I came to London, I was attacked while walking home in south London. It was a violent assault; the perpetrator tried to strangle me before attempting rape. Like Ione, I was rescued by a local person.

I was attacked by an Afro-Caribbean youth at a time when mugging and assaults on women were rife in south London. As a new arrival, I was astonished and dismayed by the violence on the streets around Brixton and Stockwell. The main difference is that when I wrote my piece, which appeared in the Guardian, my first feature in a national paper, I said my attacker was black, and speculated on the reasons that young men in that community were so violent.

Ione, perhaps reflecting the culture which now surrounds the young, did not say what nationality her attacker was. Neither the BBC, nor the national papers, nor even the Daily Mail alluded to the attacker’s ethnicity at the time, though we now know him to be a 17-year-old Somalian.


Wells is probably wise to have written such an allusive, oblique piece. After my article was published, I was reported to something called the ‘Race Today Collective’, a Brixton-based Marxist group dedicated to militant anti-racism, or as the Americans called it, Black Power. They had a magazine, Race Today, edited by Darcus Howe, referred to last year by the MP Diane Abbott as ‘a living embodiment of the struggle against police racism’.

I was battered and bruised, with a sore neck from where my assailant’s thumbs pressed on my windpipe, but I was also suddenly in deep waters. I have to say I was so pleased to see myself in print that I didn’t much care who the Race Today Collective were, or that they didn’t like me. But I did suffer a lot among my friends and neighbours. I lived in a rented hovel with some young nurses in the flat above. One of them told me that although they were constantly stopped on the street by young black men, none of them had been physically attacked, so it suggested to them that I was guilty of ‘racist body language’. In my fragile state of mind, this news depressed me very much.

A friend of mine from university seemed to despise me for being in that invidious position, a victim of someone whom she saw, for political reasons, as a victim. ‘Of course, if you let them see you are scared they will attack you,’ she told me patronisingly. Even though she was a radical feminist, that a mugger or attacker was black made them exempt from criticism. I also remember that she had a car, bought for her by her father, and was able to avoid the dangerous walk home from the tube station.

The results of all this made me feel bitter and alienated from the young people who had been my friends. I became more cautious about going out, more unhappy living in that area. My first experience of life in London had been a disaster. And from being extremely left-wing, applauding the people behind the Brixton riots, I became at best a watchful liberal.

Ione Wells will have been changed too. No girl gets up from the pavement after a violent assault as the same young person who set out that evening. Hopefully she has supportive parents and warm and sympathetic friends. Perhaps they no longer have that hard-left ideology which insisted that only white people might be racist. She says she ‘will not be defeated’, so she is taking a positive approach.

But it is sad that she has learned, as I did, that life in England is frequently about conflict, that walking home alone in London can be a very dangerous thing to do, and much worse than that, attacks on young women may sometimes be political, not just rampant lust but a by-product of ethnic conflict.

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Show comments
  • cartimandua

    What is interesting in a recent case where a man was raped is that the rapists are saying “he consented”.

    • Verbatim

      He should read “Don Juan” by Byron. He may have!! Oh, on second thoughts………….

      • cartimandua

        All men just yearn to be violently raped by 2 strangers? Really?

        • Verbatim

          You’ve missed the allusion. Never mind.

          • cartimandua

            I don’t think any “allusion” is appropriate when talking about a nasty violent crime.

          • Verbatim

            Especially when you cannot understand what the word means, or the context. I understand.

  • cartimandua

    Lefties have sacrificed the women and girls of this country by letting in very damaged people from places where violence towards women and girls is routine and normal.
    That includes parts of the Caribbean.

    • Shorne

      The Oxford sex offenders operated in a County that has been governed by the Tories of NOC since 1973 and probably longer.

      • The Tories include a number of metropolitan small ‘l’ liberals, and most of the rest have been intimidated into acquiescence by the success that the left has had in passing reams of ‘equality’ and ‘anti discrimination’ legislation, and the packing of the judiciary to ensure that such legislation is interpreted in the right way.

      • cartimandua

        Multiculturalism has been a mantra of all politicians except the “unacceptable” parties. It has meant that the costs of letting damaged people in has been thoroughly ignored.

      • JimHHalpert

        Actually not. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_City_Council.

        2010–present Labour
        2004–2010 No overall control
        2002–2004 Labour
        2000–2002 No overall control
        1980–2000 Labour
        1976–1980 Conservative
        1973–1976 Labour

        • Shorne

          You have shown the details of Oxford City Council. I said ‘County’ in my post because in so-called Shire Counties like Oxfordshire Social Services Departments (who were so deplorably at fault in these cases) come under the County Council, details of control history below
          1973 – Conservative
          1977 – Conservative
          1981 – Conservative
          1985 – No overall control
          1989 -No overall control
          1993 -No overall control
          1997 -No overall control
          2001 -No overall control
          2005 -Conservative
          2009- Conservative
          2013 -No overall control

          • JimHHalpert

            Remind me. Which council was responsible for licensing all those taxis or deciding where to place vulnerable children?

          • Shorne

            Yes it was a Labour Council, my point is that no party has a monopoly on stupidity in the guise of cultural awareness or something similar but all one reads in comment columns refers to ‘Labour rape buddies’ and similar garbage. Mind you as most of these comments come from people who were predicting a UKIP government I think they will be a little less common.

          • MikeF

            ‘Labour rape buddies’ – given the reality of what happened in Rotherham there could be more imprecise formulations.

          • Zimriel

            Does any Brit with a collection of neurons exceeding the double-digits actually believe that this only happened in Rotherham?

          • vieuxceps2

            Nobody, not even UKIP ,predicted a UKIP government.Check which planet you’re on ,will you?

          • Shorne

            The quote I gave was entirely accurate.

      • vieuxceps2

        The NOCs ,eh?What ethnicity are they?

        • Shorne

          Always amusing when somebody trying to be funny reveals himself to be an idiot

          • Verbatim

            I don’t agree.

    • Verbatim

      Ditto. Bravo.

    • AverageGuyInTheStreet

      Pretty sure it was the Tories who threw Powell out for opposing mass 3rd world immigration.

      • Zimriel

        Proving that deep down the “Tories” had joined the Left. The real tories now are UKIP.

  • ADW

    The “anti racists” of the left have long been far more obsessed with race than any racist regime. Even apartheid South Africa did not go in for as many classifications and as obsessive note taking and statistics as the anti racist crowd in Britain over the past few decades. The British lot may have started with good intentions, but the results of their wildly excessive efforts are plain to see – ethnic criminals excused time and again, whether they be rapists in Rotherham or vote riggers in Tower Hamlets. Or whether they be not criminals but simply incompetent eg Baroness Warsi, chosen promoted and retained purely because she was a Muslim woman.

    • Shazza

      If enough people from a third world country emigrate to a first world country, in no time you will have a third world country.

      • Verbatim

        Very profound.

      • GraveDave

        It’s entirely logical. The best non European races to live next door to, if you had to choose, imo, are Siri Lankans., Indians, Chinese, and one or two middle easterners not affiliated to Islam.

        • Indian Hindus make nice neighbours

          • Zimriel

            I’d pick the Sikhs.

          • P*ssheads

    • Sun

      Maybe “racist” is just for Europeans (white people)?

  • JabbaTheCat

    “I was attacked by an Afro-Caribbean youth ”

    The perpetrator was black, lets call a spade a spade and not defer to PC bullsh*t…

    • Precambrian

      Having read quite a bit of Jane Kelly’s work, PC is something she most certainly is not.

    • Sun

      Afro is there. I don’t like using white or black and it denotes just skin colour. This is more than that. I prefer European or African.

      “youth” is really what gets me going. These codewords really trigger me.

  • Precambrian

    We live in a country dominated by the politics of the emotive; visible in everything from the way racism is assumed to be a white phenomenon, through the spread of tabloid-level journalism, to the funeral of Diana.

    A kind of political fundamentalism in which an explosion of emotion is given greater value than quiet reasoned consideration. So much so that politicans even have to masquerade as “passionate” in order to be taken seriously on a subject.

    Its not that nothing is sacred. I could handle that because it would still leave space for quiet reason. Its that appetite and emotion have become idolised, and we are sacrificing a decent society upon their altars.

  • Hippograd

    A vulnerable Black yoot traumatized by white racism was acting out his self-hatred. This sort of thing won’t end until whites are turned into a minority and can no longer oppress communities of colour.

    • Verbatim

      Black on black and race on race crime is the most significant of all. Sssshh. Don’t tell the lefties. On second thought, they’ve got their fingers in their ears.

      • vieuxceps2

        Fingers in their ears? Makes a change from where they ususally keep them.

        • Verbatim

          I’ll pay that!! Very droll.

    • Kennybhoy

      Could be from a left-liberal university text book. particularly stateside…

  • PaD

    Most of my generation must surely now be ashamed that we gave this twisted ideology an inch of headroom.
    I AM!

    • Verbatim

      As am I. And I’m Australian.

  • jim

    This is not complicated.Everyone knows a white person surrounded by blacks is more at risk of violence than a black surrounded by whites.The only way to save the west is to reduce drastically the non white population within our borders.End of…

    • AverageGuyInTheStreet

      Sadly part of the strength of Europeans is our ability to empathise, to put the self interest after the good of the group – while these attributes have allowed us to evolve our societies and achievements at an astonishing rate over the last 4 or 5 centuries, it may also weaken us in the face of threats directly within our societies, such as violent or dangerous aliens.

  • “Ione has kick-started her career as a journalist”

    Oh my God. I had no idea that’s what this was about

  • Even now, despite this tortured hand wringing piece, and the less tortured but bitterly angry responses beneath it, we seem ready to vote for another Labour government. I have no idea what is going on in this country, and in truth I haven’t had for decades. Logic and rational debate seem to count for nothing. Our culture has victim groups (blacks and Muslims) and oppressors, (whites and, latterly, Jews) and no amount of evidence will break the narrative. I truly despair

    • Damaris Tighe

      ‘I have no idea what is going on in this country’: the majority do not think, they parrot & internalise received opinion. The opinion formers are all from the liberal-left & filter down to celebs who have hardly a brain cell between them, & from there to the general public. That’s what is going on in this country.

      • Kennybhoy

        It’s not just here Mistress T. It’s the whole western world. Europe is significantly better but the USA is as bad, if not worse…

        • Sorry to say, quite a lot of Europe is worse. Ever lived in Scandinavia (especially Sweden) or Germany? PC heaven, with no dissent allowed.

    • Lydia Robinson

      Fortunately, the English electorate have revolted against this disgusting oppression.

      • It’s a relief and a move in the right direction, I agree.

  • Verbatim

    We are all drastically in need of stinging political satire, like “South Park”. It’s the only thing which ridicules the kind of stuff people on these boards take seriously and it’s the ONLY effective means to counter the lorry-loads of garbage spruiked by the left.

    • MikeF

      Yes the Death Camp of Tolerance episode is the most effective destruction of the cult of political correctness ever.

  • GraveDave

    I lived in a rented hovel with some young nurses in the flat above. One of them told me that although they were constantly stopped on the street by young black men, none of them had been physically attacked, so it suggested to them that I was guilty of ‘racist body language’.

    So it was all her fault for not smiling and being nice to the savage.
    If racism is a mental illness than anti racism most definitely is.

    • Gilbert White

      Point of fact the many murders in the tourist islands of south east asia have occurred because the loney planet and the BBC have encouraged our young girls not to be wascist. Going out for a drink with the local boys , who the local girls call lice, they get in the local girls hair, is tantamount to aggreeing to sex in the boy’s minds. When the whitey girl fails to deliver things get nasty. Seen this so often. It has been the seduction of a gentle people.

    • Ray Spring

      The shopping riots, or was it the Duggan riots, or just any riot. Anyway, a Pakistani chap was murdered in Brum. I wrote a letter to The Press, the Christchurch, NZ, morning paper, suggesting that it could have been a racial fight between Blacks and Pakistanis. Young Kiwis should be careful about the possibility of this and be cautious.
      My letter was refused publication as it was deemed Racist. So warnings to young people overseas are suppressed and youngsters run a terrible risk of being attacked in the name of Diversity. We need to be pretty specific about dangers, and damn the consequences.

  • Kennybhoy

    Thank you for this article Ms Kelly. It cannot have been easy. Although that final sentence in the first paragraph …? 🙁

  • Gilbert White

    If the Conservatives get in can we have a punishment for those who cry wascist at every turn?

  • Gilbert White

    Poor old thing, and everybody takes her so seriously! She should be be grateful she does not live in Mandela’s rainbow nation. The Obama girls were given so much information about this black paradise on earth. The chances of being brutally raped and murdered by infected men here are statistically so real but you know what the media is reluctant to talk about it?

  • Annie

    While the authorities have now publicly acknowledged that street robberies, knife and gun crime have a racial/cultural aspect with special task forces, prevent strategies to deal with them, no such acknowledgement has been forthcoming that sexual crime does too. Black men are proportionally 12 times more likely to be a defendent in a rape trial than white men; Asians 5 times more likely.

    I don’t say that to make a racist point, but to make a point about the endemic institutionalised sexism in our law enforcement, political and media systems.

    I am so utterly utterly sick of sexual crime being treated as an unfortunate fact of life and the only solution to it being women to take more and more “sensible precautions” ie. Having fewer and fewer freedoms and liberties and living in a state of fear. Being expected to capitulate to these terrorists. Blamed if we don’t – not least by writers for this magazine and many of its commenters.

    The most striking thing about Wells’ letter was she said she refused to give in to the terrorists and she wouldn’t become a victim. Unfortunately she will have spent her whole life already giving into them, it’s the story of every woman’s life to factor in the threat of a sexist assault because as a society we’ve allowed them to run rife.

    I want to live in a world where I have the freedom to lie by a quiet river on a sunny day, or can walk home, or can jog through the woods, or meet my friends, have a drink or many, flirt, go for a bike ride, travel, wear a short skirt or pair of shorts, get get a bus, tube, train or taxi, drive, park, live alone in the country, and not feel I’m taking my life in my hands.

    These discrepancies in the figures show it’s possible and the men in charge simply don’t care.

    • Annie
    • Lydia Robinson

      It was feminists who accused the author of the article of bringing the rape on herself by having “racist body language,”

      • Annie

        I wrote a response yesterday which has disappeared. If you and your up voters actually read the article rather than imagine it you’ll see it says a nurse said this to her. We have no idea whether she was a feminist, let alone feminists.

        • MikeF

          I doubt she was a socially conservative Christian.

  • Lydia Robinson

    The same mentality was all pervasive in the grooming gang scandals up and down the country. It’s what makes the left so contemptible. Hopefully they’re finished after this election.

  • Dogsnob

    You did well to get through that treatment from those around you at that time. Thank you for this article which addresses a very important aspect of our lives today.

  • Richard

    That fascist Labour mentality is hopefully on the way out. What really motivates people of that sort is nothing like what they pretend. It is simply power, and what attitudes plug them into power. Once there is no power to be gained from holding and expressing such opinions, they will no longer make those utterances. They are nothing other than symptoms of national malaise.

  • cartimandua

    This morning the EU demands we take in endless numbers of potentially dangerous young men from an area where females are constantly at risk of rape and murder.
    That whole region is a place where women are not safe even if they never go out.
    The EU is betraying our safety. Multiculti and pro immigration rhetoric is betraying our safety. Anti racism rhetoric is betraying our safety.
    Ms Wells attacker’s Dad was a cab driver who couldn’t speak English. One wonders how he passed the written test.
    Brain damage happens from maternal poor nutrition and then cultural norms of violence towards women and children.
    They are betraying all of us letting lots of damaged people in.
    Labour turned away from the possibly 1 million victims of grooming gangs. All politicians are turning away from the ethnicity/immigrant background of rapists in general.
    This morning another rape was announced in another part of the county. The poor girl wasn’t even out late.
    When they describe her attacker he will not be English in either appearance or accent.
    The rapist will be treated with tender concern. I bet he wont even be deported.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Not only women are at risk. A young man was raped by Libyans in Cambridge. As you say, madness to import these culturally & psychologically damaged people to live amongst us. We have enough problems with our own s*xual abusers.

  • Boyd Redding
  • Alex Williamson

    We must not question why black people commit a vastly disproportionate amount of crime. Instead, we must tell white people that they must not notice it under pain of punishment if they do. We all know full well what “youths” and “teens” means in the crime reports.

  • Daral

    My sympathies go out to Jane for the assault she suffered, the horror of it really is unimaginable for anyone who is lucky enough not to have experienced it. But you can be both a victim of assault and guilty of simplistic views on race. Her attempt to explain this man’s actions by reference to his group identity is perniciously and invidiously racist. Rape by black men cannot be explained by the fact that they are black, just as rape by white men cannot be explained by the fact that they are white. By linking his actions to his group identity, she is implying that blame for her assault lies not only with her attacker but with the group too. Why should it be that the actions of white people can have individualised explanations, but the actions of black or brown people can only be the result of their black- or brownness? The reduction of black and brown people to the colour of their skin is harmful and yes, even racist. Racism is about more than shouting nigger at someone in the street, more than the stark examples of bigotry we can all decry: it can be subtle as well as stark, patient as well as pronounced. Racism is a social system for the distribution and perpetuation of disadvantage based on race. It is bigotry combined with the power to implement that bigotry. As such, and thinking of racism as not merely a set of views but as the implementation of those views as a social system, in fact black and brown people – being without the power to construct such a system – cannot be racist. Jane’s linking of her awful experience to race is here used to justify the existence of that system, a system which allows and indeed relies upon the simple characterisation of all black and brown people as only black or brown, and not as individuals.

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