A Tory councillor has apologised after saying “when rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it” during a council meeting.
Former mayor Barbara Driver stunned colleagues by using the phrase to describe how powerless planners are to control a housing development.
She said: “There is a saying and I am going to say it: When rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.”
Cllr Driver is now facing calls to resign from Cheltenham Borough Council after her “repulsive” comments provoked fury from colleagues, constituents and sex abuse charities.
The 77-year-old – who last year lead a report looking at sexual exploitation – has apologised but said she doesn’t intend to stand down.
Speaking from her home she said: “Unfortunately it was wrong what I said. By no way do I condone rape – it is atrocious.
“I was trying to put across – badly I will say – the fact of developers having not put much social and affordable housing in and the council saying we can’t do anything about it.
“But I used a term that I had heard years ago without thinking. It was totally dreadful. it was done without thinking about the rape bit. I know that sounds silly.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Jeffries, lead member for safeguarding, said: “I think she let herself down and she let the council down.
“It was an atrocious thing to say in the middle of a meeting about housing.”
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Fellow Lib Dem councillor Rowena Hay said she was shocked – especially since Driver lead a report looking at sexual exploitation in Cheltenham just last year.
She said: “It is not something I would expect to hear from an experienced councillor in a public meeting that was extremely well attended, particularly from Barbara Driver who championed and lead the sexual exploitation working group.
“I think the most shocking thing for me is that it trivialises those people who have been through rape and the crisis that causes in those people’s lives.
“Barbara is an extremely hard working councillor and I would never take that away from her.
“Trying to get victims of domestic violence and rape taken seriously has taken years. To have somebody diminish that is just beyond belief.”
She made the comments during a debate on plans to build 30,000 homes in Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Gloucester on Wednesday.
It is understood the councillor was comparing rape to a developer’s ability to tell a council how many affordable homes it is willing to build on a specific site.
She provoked fury on Twitter with one person describing her remarks as “disgraceful” adding that she “needs to resign after that”.
Another person said the rape comment was “absolutely shocking” while someone else said they were “gob smacked”.
Karen Clarke, from the Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, criticised the remarks.
She said: “Making these comments, that have nothing to do with what she was talking about, is quite shocking.
“Rape has a devastating impact and there’s no possibility that anyone could ever lie back and enjoy it.
“When people in positions of power make throw away and flippant comments like this it perpetuates the myths around rape.
“Someone in a position of authority should know better. Apologies are not enough.”
Three official complaints have been made prompting the referral of the matter to the council’s monitoring officer who will consult with two independent advisors.
They will decide what action to take – and whether to refer the incident to the standards committee – within four weeks.
A Cheltenham Borough Council spokeswoman added: “The council has taken the matter seriously, as has Councillor Driver, and a full and sincerely apology has been issued to the mayor and copied to all councillors”.
Councillor Driver has apologised in an open letter to the council in which she said her remark was “completely inappropriate and thoughtless and should not have been said”.
She added yesterday: “I was thinking more about the control – the developers having control over what goes on and the council trying to take back control.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
When asked to respond to those who have called for her resignation she said: “That is there right, to say that if that’s what they think.
“But I’ve had also quite a few people saying yes you shouldn’t have said it but please don’t go anywhere.”