Blind peer cleared of sexual assault
Women’s Aid Survivor Ambassador Saliha Rashid speaks out
A blind peer has been cleared of sexually assaulting a masseuse. In his police statement read out in court, the peer who was a former Conservative, said: “As I am blind I cannot ‘see’ – but I can get a sense of what a person looks like through touch, which is the only sense I can use to get an image in my mind of people’s appearance. It is obviously a bit strange to be massaged by someone, without knowing what they look like. By touching I mean lightly tracing the outline of the other person rather than grabbing them in a firm way.”
Saliha Rashid, Survivor Ambassador for Women’s Aid, said:
“The ruling is extremely concerning. As a Women’s Aid Survivor Ambassador, I want to make it clear that all touch should be consensual, without exception. As a blind person, I want to make clear that you do not need to touch someone in order to get a sense of the world. It is one thing as a blind person to want to touch someone. However, it is not a need that blind people have. This distinction between needing and wanting to touch someone is essential. The masseuse agreed he could touch her face, but she gave her consent on the grounds of what he had told her: that this is what blind people need.
I am deeply saddened by this outcome, because he has admitted touching her on the basis of his disability. He is using his blindness to justify his actions. In addition, there is a potential abuse of power: because he is a peer, this lends authority to his spurious claim that this is how blind people behave.
As a blind person from birth, and a women’s rights campaigner, it is my view that it is not OK to say ‘I need to touch your face’ on the basis of one’s blindness.
My recommendation is that this case is reviewed urgently.”