I was on LBC Radio this morning giving my views on Stephen Fry’s comments about the victims of abuse, more particularly rape, when he told them that they didn’t have his sympathy if they were self piteous, and ought to grow up.
His remarks came at the end of a 10 minute interview on the American based Rubin Show. The thrust of the piece was not abuse at all, but the way in which the left leaning members of American society were trying to ban certain valid works of art if it had an element which might trigger victims of abuse into memories of their past.
He mentioned Macbeth being banned because there was evidence of infanticide, and the demands in England for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes because he was a capitalist monster who pillaged countries of their mineral wealth in the days of the British Empire.
“On student campuses… There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape.
“Or you can’t watch Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because your uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry.”
Then the bit that got everyone going:-
“It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy.
“Self pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.
“Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself.
“The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”
The points I made on the radio were:-
- Because abuse victims retain the memories for so long it is no wonder they become self-absorbed and cannot offload it, so become introspective. If they become self-piteous it is because they have no one to share their bad memories with.
- Their self-esteem is low enough without this making them feel worse.
- Fry wasn’t talking about this on the show and it was a remark at the end, made without proper thought.
- He was transposing his views on depression and mental health onto abuse victims inappropriately, and using his theory of not getting obsessed with your own depression and the need to snap out of it on child abuse victims without enough thought, hence igniting such a social media storm.
- I am not sure he is really down on abuse victims – a chance remark gone wrong.
Fry is an intelligent man and should apologise for his ill considered remarks. Whether he will or not is another matter.
As always, please contact our abuse team if there is any issue with which you would like advice.