Having the worst experience of my life and a three-year long fight for some semblance of justice condensed into a 243-word article and reduced to two words – ‘not guilty’ – isn’t really something I’m willing to settle for. This article does not get to be the final version of events. I will not settle for being an ‘alleged victim’. This ruling hasn’t changed what happened or got rid of the trauma I have had to and will continue to have to live with.
The 14th October 2016 is a date that I’m not going to forget any time soon. I reported what happened 10 days after the incident. What this article doesn’t tell you is that I was likely suffering symptoms of PTSD in the week following so was unable to even talk about what had happened, let alone go to the police about it.
It doesn’t tell you that I first testified via video link in October 2018, alone, from the spare room in my granny’s house without any immediate support to hand. It doesn’t tell you that I felt such a sense of relief after it was finished, that the whole ordeal was over, and I wouldn’t have to go through it again. Or how I felt that in that instance I’d been given space to speak the truth about what had happened and could begin to heal.
It doesn’t tell you that because of the prosecutor’s incompetence (using a previous complaint against the perpetrator as evidence – something which is not allowed in court) the case was ruled a ‘mistrial’ and a retrial was ordered.
October 2019, and I testified for the second time, over three years after the incident took place. This time with a different jury and a different prosecutor, and yet with the same defence lawyer who had cross-examined me the previous year. Hm.
This time there was no sense of relief after it had taken place. It was every bit the archetypal rape trial that you watch on crime dramas thinking ‘there’s no way it is that bad in real life’ when actually it is far worse. You are living with the trauma of what happened and are trying to convey that in a short amount of time under intense questioning to a group of strangers who come with their own set of prejudices and biases. Add to this me being able to clearly see the defence lawyer’s assistant laughing and making jokes while I was giving my testimony and it’s safe to say that testifying round 2 was one of the most harrowing, gruelling experiences I have had to go through.
After three years of pushing and fighting, it broke me to find out that the person who did was found ‘not guilty’.
It broke me to find out that text messages from him saying he was sorry were not even used in the final court case because the officers ‘were unable to extract these from my phone’, despite me being told in 2016 that they had been.
It broke me when I was asked what I was wearing because that kind of question is exactly why rape culture exists.
It broke me that after only an hour of deliberating, the jury unanimously reached a not guilty verdict. Not one of them believed me. Not. even. one.
I am done with carrying this round like it is some shameful secret. I think the only way that this whole ordeal will have been even slightly ‘worth it’ is to share my experience and let others know just what it is like to battle with a court system where it feels like you have been set up to fail from the outset.
The article also doesn’t say anything about the utter devastation caused by rape and how I woke up on 15th October 2016 a completely different person than I had been previously. I was no longer able to teach. I no longer felt safe. I was no longer able to live in a place I was beginning to call home. I’ve since struggled with PTSD, anxiety and depression and have felt shame and guilt. Over three years have passed since it happened, and I still have to remind myself again and again that I may have put myself in an unsafe situation, but I did not deserve to be raped. The only shame lies with those who think it is acceptable to take advantage of another person’s vulnerability.
The small glimmer of hope I have in all of this is faith that there is a God who sees all, and who hates injustice. There ain’t no hiding place from the father of creation. Holding on tight to that hope that the truth will come out in the end.