Belfast Telegraph

Tell me again, just what was Imogen's crime?

By Jane Graham

The public reaction to Imogen Thomas has spotlit what a serious social problem we have in this country when it comes to our attitudes to attractive young women.

In the light of her affair with a popular married footballer, Thomas has been transformed, by the media and its readers alike, into a poster girl for numerous ills. They include home-wrecking, gold-digging, promiscuity, blackmail, betrayal of the universal sisterhood and vulgar shoes.

Whenever she is mentioned on the internet, the story is followed by a barrage of comments from seething sadists whom I can only assume need to rain down pernicious rancour on a daily basis like the rest of us need to breathe.

It's always the same old list of hate-filled nouns, the lingua franca of morons: cheap tart, WAG wannabe, Z-lister, slag, slut, bitch...

Isn't English a rich and evocative language?

Those witticisms are usually from the women. The kind of words men tend to prefer in relation to Thomas aren't printable here - let's just say their response to her is in some ways more friendly but you wouldn't wish it upon your snow-white daughter.

Thomas has, unsurprisingly, received death threats from supposed fans of her ex-boyfriend. The threats, which come with thoughtful graphic detail, aren't just to kill her but also various members of her family, including her two-year-old nephew.

Thomas now travels with a bodyguard and carries a rape alarm. She is taking anti-depressants and, according to her mother, is suffering with stress-induced alopecia.

Let's just go over exactly what Imogen Thomas has done. She has worn a short skirt and high heels in public.

She has admitted to conducting an affair with a married footballer whom she says she gradually fell in love with. She did not 'go public' with the affair, as some misinformed miscreants think, she kept schtum.

Only when the footballer took out an injunction to protect his privacy in the event of the story leaking out was she named by the Press - because the judge in the case decided that, while the boyfriend's reputation was worth saving (or paying for), hers wasn't.

She has spoken to a national magazine this week - but it's no kiss-and-tell. There are almost no details about her ex or their affair at all, just an insight into how upset and scared she is right now.

I have to say, if the country was talking about me, calling me names, making up lies, I'd be so angry I'd be fighting my corner like a baited bear. I'd be talking for Ireland. And I'd put on my highest, reddest shoes to do it.

Sleeping with a married man - and a father - isn't a nice thing to do. I like to think I'd never have done it in my single days.

But I can't say for absolute certainty that it could never have happened. Looking around me at family and friends, it's very clear that all sorts of things we hope will never happen do happen.

Complicating factors - including low self-esteem, unhappy relationships, depression, moments of madness - can lead to all sorts of unthinkable events taking place.

And the women who talk about Thomas like she's the dirt on their shoes - can they all say with absolute confidence that given the opportunity to do the right or wrong thing, they'd say every time:

"Put it away Brad, I wouldn't want to break Angelina's heart?"

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