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MP Michelle Thomson moves House to tears with rape 'survivor' story

An MP moved colleagues to tears after revealing she was raped at 14, telling the Commons: "I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor."

Independent Michelle Thomson, 51, said it was " mercifully quick" but she carried the " guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness" for years - and chose to keep the attack from her mother before she died as "an act of love" to protect her.

Ms Thomson (Edinburgh West) was comforted by former SNP colleagues and Labour MPs at the end of her speech, with Speaker John Bercow visibly moved.

Labour MP Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen) later recounted how a man attempted to rape her when she was at university aged 20.

The former Coronation Street actress said she slept with a knife afterwards, noting she counted herself as "one of the lucky ones" and that the perpetrator was brought to justice.

The pair shared their personal stories during a Commons debate focused on UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Ms Thomson said: "When I was 14, I was raped. As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me.

"He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and in those days everybody walked everywhere, it was quite common to do that."

Ms Thomson said it was early evening in an area she knew well, adding : "He told me he wanted to show me something in a wooded area and at that point, I must admit, I was alarmed.

"I did have a warning bell - but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.

"To be honest, looking back, at that point I don't think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about."

Ms Thomson added: "It was mercifully quick and I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realised I quite simply couldn't escape - because he was stronger than me."

She said her senses were "absolutely numbed", telling MPs: "Thinking about it now, 37 years later, I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind."

She said that afterwards, she walked home alone crying, cold and shivering as she was in shock.

Ms Thomson said: "I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father, I didn't tell my friends and I didn't tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me.

"I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant so that would force a situation to help me control it."

Ms Thomson said she later felt she had a duty to tell her husband about what happened, adding to MPs: "B ut for many years I simply could not say the words without crying. It was only in my mid-40s that I took some steps to go and get help with it."

She said the rape "fatally undermined" her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth.

But Ms Thomson said despite this she is "blessed" in her life and has been happily married for 25 years.

She went on: "But if this was the effect from one small, albeit significant, event in my life stage, how must it be for those women who are carrying this on a day-by-day basis?"

She added she had encountered "other aggressive actions" towards her in business and politics, concluding: "One thing I realise now is I'm not scared and he was.

"I'm not scared, I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor."

Mr Bercow thanked Ms Thomson for her speech, noting she had "left an indelible impression on us all".

Speaking about the attack on her, Ms Brabin described it as the " worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to me".

She said: "I was going to be one of those very rare statistics of a woman who is attacked by a stranger, not by someone she knows.

"I was in my second year at university, the man had seen me walk past his car and had waited ahead for me to turn the corner.

"As I came up against him all those words of advice your mum gives you - knee him where it hurts then run like hell - well they disappeared, I was frozen in fear.

"As he shoved me to the ground trying to rape me, I fought back, but I was battered.

"It was only the community-spirited Indian neighbour further down the road that saved me from something much worse."

She said the man was sentenced, noting: "I didn't have to look over my shoulder, checking if he was following me.

"He was a stranger. I didn't have to wake up in the same bed as him, go to work with him as my boss.

"He didn't use a broken bottle to hurt me. He was alone and not with a group of other men. It was only once and not several times."

Ms Brabin also told MPs about how the "following few years were hard" for her.

She said: " I got afraid walking alone so I bought a bike. I got scared in the night. I slept with a knife. I was easily startled and cried at the drop of a hat."

Ms Brabin urged the Government to do more to combat violence against women.

Labour frontbencher Sarah Champion said to Ms Thomson: "We all felt the horror and we are all sorry for you and every other girl that experiences that horror."

Home Office minister Sarah Newton praised Ms Thomson for "breaking that taboo" by talking about what happened to her.

She said: "It's incredibly brave of you, in the eloquent way that you did, to talk about what happened to you and I am sure your mother would be incredibly proud of you because as a result you will be helping so many women who are suffering in silence."

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