'I did not sign up for this' - Alliance councillor on social media rape threat

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

  • Published
sorcha eastwoodImage source, PAcemaker

An Alliance councillor has spoken for the first time about receiving a rape threat through social media.

Sorcha Eastwood, who sits on Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, told BBC's Red Lines podcast that it happened when she stood for election for the first time in 2017.

"It was the biggest shock," she said.

"I had just walked out of church with my husband and I looked at my phone because we were going to my mum's house."

"I looked and I had a private message from somebody, which was a rape threat, and I just thought 'I did not sign up for this'," she added.

The politician said she was "absolutely" open to debating issues with the public but that the tone and language being used would put many women off entering politics.

Executive minister and SDLP assembly member Nichola Mallon told the same programme that she had experienced sexism during her time in politics.

"It came to the fore for me when I was Lord Mayor of Belfast (in 2013/14) when I went to events. If my husband was with me they looked to him and past me," she said.

"The other way I would have experienced it is people being very willing to talk about your appearance… and ask things like 'how do you juggle being a mum and working as well?'

"The experiences I have show there is still a perception, as a female, that you're not expected to be doing this role."

Earlier this week, the Belfast Telegraph reported that more than a quarter of Stormont's female MLAs said they had been sexually harassed during their political life, with others reporting experience of sexism on social media.