Why Joan's traumatic sexual assault in the 1950s is important for women in 2014
Joan Collins has finally spoken out about the night she was sexually assaulted 64 years after the alleged incident occurred when she was just 17. Perhaps the most shocking aspect to her story is who attacked her: Joan’s future husband.
Choosing to publicly share her story in support of a new documentary, ‘Brave Miss World’, about former Miss World Linor Abargil who was stabbed and sexually assaulted six weeks before the contest, it’s a brave revelation and an empowered one.
But it seems not everyone agrees. Twitter users took to the social media site to accuse Joan of seizing the opportunity to promote her book, The World According To Joan’.
One user called her interview it ‘shocking bad taste,’ another said she was ‘scaremongering women’ and asked, ‘does Joan Collins just hate every single man in the world?’
Others didn’t like Joan’s advice and when the actress said women should be aware of date rape drugs and not put themselves in situations where they feel vulnerable: ‘Teaching men not to rape instead of how not to get raped should be the message?’
Of course, there were many who also jumped to Joan’s defence, urging her to ignore ‘sick trolls’ and supporting her decision to reveal her ordeal:
‘I was raped when I was seventeen years old,’ said Joan before recalling the night in question: an early date with Irish actor Maxwell Reed that ended in a violent and traumatic attack behind closed doors.
It’s the moment Maxwell gave Joan a drink of rum and coke that her memory goes blank before it switches on again: ‘The next thing I knew, I was out flat on the sofa in that living room and he was raping me. And what he had given me was a drug. He had drugged my drink.’
Perhaps the most upsetting aspect to Joan’s story is the guilt she felt afterwards and the impact this had on the teenage Joan. Too scared to tell her parents, two years later she married the man who she now asserts date-raped her.
Joan Collins aged 18, a year after the alleged attack
‘The bottom line is that he called me, and I went out with him again. And after I’d been going out with him for a few months, he asked me to marry him.
‘And I thought, ‘Well I better because you know, he took my virginity.’ I really hated him, but I was so filled with guilt, that he had done this thing to me.’
She remembers crying the night before her wedding to Maxwell. She also remembers her father telling her to go through with the ceremony for the sake of the guest list.
Joan’s tears mirror those of Israeli beauty contestant Linor Abargil, crying in 1998 as she accepted her Miss World crown, her tears – not of joy – but of anguish. Linor had been violently beaten and raped six weeks before by a man who had been employed to escort her to the airport.
Linor Abargil becomes Miss World in 1998
Maybe it’s because of the magnitude of Joan Collins’ fame that her recent statement has shocked us all so profoundly. All the more reason why her admission is so important decades later: her story shows us how rape can happen to any woman at any time, often by someone she knows. Hollywood stars, beauty Queens…their experience is others’ experience too.
69 years later the statistics from Rape Crisis show us Joan’s experience in the 1950s is still a woman’s experience in 2014. Not only is sexual assault a frequent reality (1/5 women in the UK will experience some form of assault from the age of 16 onwards), like Joan all those decades ago, they are usually committed by known men (90%) and women are still too fearful to speak up (only 15% of women who are raped in the UK report it).
As Linor told the Daily Mail: ‘When she found out about the film, she decided she would help us. It’s not something any of us want to do – to go on camera and talk about having been raped. But when you know that speaking up can give others the courage to come forward and press charges, and how many others will be saved by putting a rapist in prison, you want to do it.’
Let’s hope Joan Collins’ story gives others the strength to speak their stories too.