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The vital detail we’re all missing in Sinitta’s #MeToo story

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Kayleigh Dray
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Sinitta has spoken out after being sexually assaulted at Simon Cowell’s villa

Sinitta has spoken out after being sexually assaulted at Simon Cowell’s villa. Here’s why her story is so important:

In a new interview with the Sunday Mirror, Sinitta has revealed that she was pinned down on a bed and sexually assaulted by a guest at Simon Cowell’s villa.

The So Macho singer – who remains good friends with her ex-boyfriend, Cowell – told the publication that she was showing the guest around the X Factor judge’s St. Tropez house, in order to help him find a bedroom. However, when they were far away enough from the rest of the guests, he “attacked” her.

“When we got to the basement, far from everyone, he said ‘Oh, I like this one. I like this one’,” she said.

“He threw himself on the bed with his hand behind his head and was like ‘yep, yep, this one is fine for me’. I was like: ‘Really? With no view, no windows? But if this is the one you like then so be it. Sleep well and I’ll see you in the morning’.

“I leaned over to say goodbye to him with a kiss on the cheek.

“He grabbed me, pulled me down on top of him and was suddenly on top of me on the bed.”

In the interview, Sinitta reveals that it was a long “struggle” to “get away” from her attacker, and explains that “he could tell I was fighting him off but wouldn’t let me go”.

When she eventually managed to free herself, he reportedly “sneered” at her and said: “Oh, is that what Simon’s into, then? You taking charge?”

Sinitta, “panting” and barely able to catch her breath, left the room and returned to the party. There, she informed a “stunned” Cowell what had happened – and, the next day, Cowell confronted her attacker during an “aggressive” conversation.

“[Simon] came back and said: ‘I told him not to ever put his f****** hands on you again,’” she recalled, adding that she is now undergoing counselling as a result of the encounter.

Perhaps the most upsetting part of Sinitta’s story, though, is the thought that rushed through her mind at the time of the attack.

“I was shocked,” she said, “but even at the moment I recall playing in my head: ‘Has there been anything about my behaviour or my demeanour that has made this man think that I am interested in him?’”

Sinitta did not report her attack to the police – and she is not alone: it’s thought that only 344 out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault gets reported to authorities in the UK, meaning roughly two-thirds of incidents will never be investigated. There are a multitude of reasons for this, many of which have been detailed on Twitter using the viral #WhyWomenDontReport hashtag. The most cited, though, is this idea that they are somehow to blame for their attacker’s actions.

And is it surprising that they feel this way? Hardly: our society has always normalised these types of assault, and encouraged us to find a way to blame the victim. Think about it: a man can be let off lightly for raping an unconscious woman because she was too drunk. A fashion model can be accused of being “unladylike” because she lashed out at a stranger who publicly assaulted her on the street. Someone can legitimately publish the opinion that the women who “spread (their) legs” for Harvey Weinstein in exchange for film roles should stop “whingeing”. And comedy films continue to persist with the idea that sexual assault can be… well, can be funny: take the much-loved Love Actually, for example, which includes a plot line about the President of the United States groping and slobbering at one of the Prime Minister’s aides (how prophetic). However, it’s not Natalie’s humiliation which takes centre stage, it’s the jealousy that the PM experiences. His feelings are put above hers. For her, it’s just – and, yes, we say it again – just one of those things that women are expected to put up and deal with.

No doubt this is why Martine McCutcheon’s character feels the need to apologise to her one true love for allowing the POTUS to touch her without her consent.

Even now, in light of #MeToo and #TimesUp, many media outlets still focus the blame on victims of sexual assault. They were drinking, they were wearing a short skirt, they had a long string of ex-boyfriends, they had mental health issues, they were out late at night, they overreacted, they took an unsafe route home, they didn’t fight back, they were too drunk, they had given their attacker the wrong idea, they got in the unlicensed taxi, they should have said something…

The implication is clear: that a woman who is not constantly on the lookout for predators is asking for something terrible to happen. And so it is all too natural that we, ourselves, begin to internalise this opinion. Indeed, when something awful happens to a woman, she often preempts the questions others will ask. 

 She says: “What was I wearing?” “Did I give him the wrong impression?” “Should I have gone to that party?” “Why did I put my drink down when I went to the bathroom?”

Of course, it goes without saying that the only person who is to blame in any instance of assault is the attacker. Say it once more, with feeling: the only person who is to blame in any instance of assault is the attacker. To suggest otherwise is not just morally reprehensible, it suggests that doing so is somehow OK, excusable.

“Touching another person sexually without their permission is a form of sexual violence,” says Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, which provides expert support to women experiencing sexual and gender-based violence. “Too often, society blames the victim. I frequently hear people say ‘but what did she expect, wearing that outfit?’ A woman should be free to dress and behave as she wishes, without fear of abuse.”

She adds: “Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault; the fault lies solely with the perpetrator and there are no excuses or justifications for this behaviour. Sexual violence is all about men exerting power and control over the opposite sex. A man who gropes a woman without her consent believes he has a right to her body. By challenging sexual violence, in all its forms, we send a clear message to perpetrators that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

It took Sinitta a very long time to understand that she was not to blame for what happened to her. And, while she has yet to publicly name her attacker (he is, she says, a very “powerful” and “influential” man), she has addressed him directly.

“You know who you are,” she said. “I’ve heard you’ve bragged about this story but exaggerated it and acted like you got more than you got. But you didn’t and you never will. I am not hiding away any longer.”

Sinitta then turned her attention to fellow survivors, adding: “I’d like to say to anyone who has been affected by the same experience that I have to speak to a friend, a family member or a charity like Mind. I’m going to counselling around this.

“I still find it hard to talk about this, which I don’t fully understand as it wasn’t my fault. Women should be able to live their lives how they wish, without fear of being taken advantage of by powerful men.”

If you have been subject to sexual assault, call 999 to report it to police.

Further information and support can be found at Refuge’s website.

Image: Getty