I was one of the “lucky” ones.
After I was date raped, I reported it to Sussex police who were nothing but supportive and professional. I went to trial and my rapist was convicted. Astounding.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have darker times, still feeling angry about the injustice of my experience.
I may have achieved a guilty verdict, but that was following a day and a half of cross-examination from a female defence barrister. I think the fact that it was a woman made it worse.
You go into this knowing that the job of the defence is to discredit my story. Yet it still comes as a surprise when you have a woman standing across from you, in a room full of strangers, overtly accusing you of lying.
Somehow because I couldn’t remember whether he had removed my top or not, I must clearly have forgotten that I actually consented. Because I didn’t kick, punch, scratch, push him away, I was consenting.
Somehow, the defence had reached the conclusion that I had enjoyed myself, but had been too ashamed to tell my friends that I had a one night stand, so had decided accusing rape was a better option – because OBVIOUSLY, it’s MUCH easier to tell your friends and family that you’ve been raped. That’s just a walk in the park compared to admitting to consensual sex with a man you’re not in a relationship with right?
I emerged from the courtroom, knowing I had to come back the following morning for more, to a clerk who said “it’s nothing personal” (what about this is NOT personal?!) before ending up in the arms of my cousin in floods of tears. As it was the end of the day, I was painfully aware that the rest of the court clerks and volunteers were waiting for me to leave as I sobbed into a cup of water.
Finally, he got the guilty verdict he sorely deserved. Now, I can look back and realise that I was “lucky” to even get that. At the time, I was so traumatised by having my character put on trial for something that was done to me, that any sense of being ‘lucky’ was lost on me.
As it was his first offence, he received a four-year sentence. Four. It’s been six years since the assault, so I can safely say I would have happily taken a four-year sentence for what I actually have. Particularly given that it was anticipated at sentencing that he would serve two and be out on probation for the remainder.
I was kept updated of his situation by a Victim Liaison Officer. While this is a valuable resource, it also served to tie me to him after the case in a way which I hadn’t anticipated. Two years after his sentencing, he was due to be released on probation, but was actually held by the Immigration department, as he was a non-EU immigrant.
On the one hand, this was great; on the other I had to navigate through his many bail hearings, never knowing whether or not he would be released. By this point I had moved to a different city.
I discovered that in order for him to be granted bail from the immigration department, he had to supply an address to be bailed to. The police would then check this address for its suitability. Two addresses were rejected on the grounds of being too close to “vulnerable people” – in this case a school and an old people’s home. As a registered sex offender, the department could not release him to those addresses.
He was successful with his third address – one which was approximately a 10 minute drive from my new flat. Every train or bus I could get to the city centre would go through that area.
As the victim of his crime, I had been allowed to impose bail conditions – one, that he was never to contact me, and two, I could have an exclusion zone placed around my flat. I had taken the first, but rejected the second – I had moved to a new city that he wasn’t aware of, so if I put an exclusion zone in, he would know where I was living.
When he was granted bail on Christmas Eve, to 10 minutes down the road, I was out of options. Either tell him where I live by placing an exclusion zone, or risk that I could potentially bump into him, five years after he raped me.
I chose the latter, though it didn’t feel much like a choice. It was beyond belief that the Immigration Department had no obligation to consider the impact of their decision on his victim. That they could protect vulnerable people he had never met, but not protect me, the person he hurt in the first place. My Victim Liaison Officer said that he would be on a 9pm curfew, and if he did see me on public transport, he’d have to get off immediately and report it to his probation officer. No one talked about the immediate impact it would have on me if I saw him – regardless of whether or not he saw me.
I lived in fear for 11 months before he was finally deported. I had friends who lived in that area that I didn’t visit. To me, justice was not done just because I got the guilty verdict.