Recently I have seen a lot of people talking about victims of sex assaults. I guess it has been brought about by the big cases in the news at the moment – Rolf Harris and such. I have seen a lot of negativity towards the women who have spoken out against these predators, and I feel like I need to write down my experience.
This may be triggering to anyone who has suffered a sexual assault or similar situation.
I am a sexual assault survivor. I was sexually assaulted over two years ago by someone I trusted. I am not going to go into the details about what happened, because I don’t want to identify the case. Truth being told is that if I were to identify the case, my name would then be available to reporters. The last thing I need is to jeopardise my anonymity. Thankfully, witnesses in any sex case receive anonymity from the press and I really appreciate that.
I’ve heard a lot of people calling the women who have reported these crimes liars. The thing I now know, after going through the initial reporting stage, the waiting, the seeing if he will be charged and then the court case itself, that it would not be worth it if what I had reported was a lie. The stress, the strain and the upset that has plagued me over the last last three years is not worth going through if no crime actually happened.
Let me tell you what my experience was like. I realised what had happened and reported the crime to the police. At this time, I was rolling with the punches because people kept asking questions and the police were regularly updating me. He was arrested and questioned. I felt safe. Only after he was bailed and the police submitted the file to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) did I actually have time to think about it. Only then did I actually have time to think about what had happened to me,
Boy, did I think. It hit me like a tonne of bricks. It was all I could think about. Why did this happen? How did I let it happen? Had I somehow caused it? Was it my fault? People reassured me that it wasn’t my fault, I hadn’t done anything wrong and he was a sexual predator, but I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I saw him going about his business as normal once he had been bailed. Doing his job as normal, conversing with the same people as normal. Nothing had changed.
I had been told constantly by the police that he may not be charged. There may not be enough evidence. There may be nothing the police can do. It’s “my word against his”. When the police called me with the CPS decision, I fully believed they were going to tell me that they had decided not to charge, but they didn’t. They told me he had been charged and it would be going to court. They told me it would happen about five months from then. In the mean time he had a couple of appearances at magistrates court. Of course he took no plea. He didn’t even have the decency to plead guilty.
The police weren’t great at updating me. I often had to contact them after something had happened to find out what the out come was. I expressed to them that I was struggling. I told them I had been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and was finding everything incredibly hard to deal with. My head was an absolute mess. I was on antidepressants and was taking a mild sedative for the panic attacks I was experiencing regularly. I had been signed off work a couple of times for two weeks at a time as I just couldn’t function. People were telling me that he was saying the whole thing had been dropped. I was so upset that he was going about his life as normal and yet I was feeling like I wasn’t able to. I felt like I was drowning. Sometimes I was in physical pain because of how distressed I was.
The month in which the court case was scheduled came around. I had been going through counselling with a wonderful counsellor at this time and he had been really helping me prepare for what was going to happen. I had gone from not being able to talk about what had happened, to being able to go through the details without screaming and crying, I wasn’t blaming myself as much as I had been. I was ready to face the man who assaulted me. Most importantly, I was ready to take the next step and move on.
A week before it was due to start, I heard from the police. The trial had been postponed due to HIS lawyer suddenly becoming unavailable. Because HIS chosen lawyer was not available, we would have to wait for justice. How long? Another six months. I was devastated. I fell back into the same slump that I had managed to pull myself out of. I had been so happy to finally almost be at the point where we could move on, where we could get on with our lives and forget about this whole situation. But I had to wait what seemed like an eternity.
Over the next six months I was contacted periodically by the police. We started trying to move on a little. I still had my bad days and my VERY bad days, but we were coping. Amy was (and is) my rock. I managed to go to work thanks to being authorised to do part time shifts instead of full twelve hour shifts. I was (and still am) losing about two hundred pounds a month because of this, but it meant I kept my job. I was still having counselling once a week, working through the self blaming, the hurt and the upset. We also started trying to conceive again.
About a month before the case started I was asked by the police for a copy of my counselling notes. I said no. There was no way in hell I was having my mental health used against me in court. The only reason I was having counselling was because of what this man had done, and me and my counsellor had managed to create a safe place. The idea of that being jeopardised was much like being violated again. The police said they would accept my medical notes instead, so reluctantly I signed them over. Two weeks later they insisted on my counselling notes, telling me that if I did not consent, the judge would likely issue a court order for them regardless. I was devastated and signed the form. I wanted to stop going to counselling. It didn’t feel safe any more. Thankfully, my counsellor and the legal team at the practise were able to block the request, so I did not have my mental health used against me in court. The idea, though, ruined counselling for me. It didn’t feel safe any more.
Two weeks before the court case, I had a complete meltdown. I had been contacted by the police very early on to ask if I needed screens in court to shield me from the view of the man who assaulted me. I said no, I didn’t see the need. In the three weeks before the case I was contacted no less than four times by officers asking me the same question. The day I ended up getting signed off sick by my doctor, I was woken up by an officer I had never met before asking me again if I wanted screens. I lost it. I sent the officer on the case an email asking to withdraw my statement. I couldn’t take any more of the stress and the strain and I wanted out. It was not worth losing my sanity for the sake of a 7% conviction rate.
I did receive an email back from the officer. I was advised that I could make a withdrawal statement, but I would be called to court anyway and court ordered to attend if necessary. So, basically I couldn’t withdraw it. I couldn’t withdraw my own experience. At this point, I did not care that what he had done was wrong, I just wanted out. I didn’t want justice any more. I didn’t care about the idea of him going to prison. I just wanted my life back. I wanted to feel human again. I wanted to just be ok. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t take back the information that I had handed over.
Court almost happened several times over the next week. Several times I was told “it will be X date” and then it was delayed. At some point during this mess we discovered that I was pregnant. This tiny little human gave Amy and I something to get through this for. I informed the police, and they said they would inform the court. I was told on the Friday that I would be needed on the Monday, so on that sunny Monday morning I made my way to court. Amy had had to come back from a festival early to give evidence, so I was alone for the first couple of hours in the witness waiting area. The officer who had been my main contact was very helpful at this point, explaining what was happening and when I would be needed.
Then the time came. I went in to the court and there were screens up, despite my wish to not have screens. At this point I decided to just go with it. The statement I had originally given was a video statement, so this was played to the court and then I had to answer a cross examination. They told me I consented to his sexual actions. I replied that I didn’t. They kept telling me I had consented and I was a liar. I didn’t get stressed. I didn’t get upset. I left with my head held high and was dismissed. The next day I was called back in and they took some really low blows. That day, I got upset. I cried. I got angry. I shouted and cried some more. Thankfully I kept it together in court, only to fall apart in the waiting area afterwards.
Amy gave her evidence and we went home and awaited a verdict. There were other women involved in the case who had been assaulted by this man. For one woman,she was lucky enough to be given a “guilty” verdict by the jury. For me and the others, the jury was “hung”, meaning they couldn’t make a decision. At first, I took a positive from that, that is was “hung” and not “not guilty”. Hung means some people believed he had done what he had. The fact that he was found guilty with regards to one woman means he will likely go to prison and will likely be in the sex offenders register for life. We were asked by the police if we wanted a retrial. Amy and I decided against it. At the time I was still pregnant, and I didn’t want to put us through that again at probably eight months pregnant. I’m not sure what decision the other women involved made with regards to a retrial.
During this investigation and trial I have been called a liar, a slut and a vindictive bitch. People have said I made it up. People have said I deserved it. One woman said she hoped I lose my baby. This same woman went through everything I had ever written online, on a forum where people have supported me, and spread it around on other sites. I’ve seen the same things said about people involved in the high profile cases of late. My point is, think before you speak. By the time these cases get to court, these woman have already been through so much. They’ve already had every area of their lives under scrutiny. Don’t make it harder than it already is. Don’t judge, when you don’t know all the facts.
At the end of the day, all I did was report a crime. That is all any victim of a sex crime does. These women are very brave and deserve to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, the justice system rule of “innocent until proven guilty” for the defendant means “liar until proven truthful” for the victim, I’m not denying that there are the rare cases out there where a woman makes an untruthful report, but these are so rare. And in most cases these false accusations don’t even make it to court. So, in a situation where these accusations have been made, have a little respect for the victims. Chances are they are going through the worst time of their lives.