CONTENT WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT RAPE, COERCIVE CONTROL, AND CONTAINS SURVIVOR STORIES
I left my children’s dad when I was pregnant with my youngest. Fed up of the dark coercive control which included ritualistic anal rape as ‘rewards’ for his financial support – even when pregnant, even when our first born was in the room. I fled. It took a lot of therapy and a diagnosis of PTSD before I finally went to the police. Almost a year of statements, evidence gathering, isolation and trauma and then they interviewed him once and decided there was no point in speaking to witnesses as ‘the courts need a solid case and it’s just your word against him’. Instantly he attacked, furious that I had told of his actions and playing the victim of emotional abuse and lies. It didn’t matter that we moved to a secret location and he found us – we had to prove it. It didn’t matter that he threatened to come to our home and take the children – he never actually showed up. “Not criminal enough” was the words said to me. It does not matter that the children now suffer with PTSD and self-harming through fear; we must prove it, we must prove their fear. The school refused to help us, friends and family suddenly stopped communicating, Social Work and the police said their hands were tied by the court order of forced contact. He was enabled to control and abuse us, legally. He still is. We are isolated and I am marked as a woman who cries rape, taking children away from a devoted father.
We are not alone in this. The fact is, the legal system would much prefer a dead mother and children rather than, potentially, imprison an innocent man. During the writing of this an article popped up on my news feed talking about ‘finger pointing’ and ‘blame culture’ between the police and the criminal justice system. The words of the police officer rang in my ears. Searching further I was able to access the official report from the HM Government website. Reading through it my blood ran cold. I was a drop in the ocean of statistics. They never intended to convict him, the decision was made before the words left my mouth. The abuse happened to me in England, although I now live in Scotland – the constabulary in England are still responsible for dealing with my case… or not as I learned. The data floored me, then it angered me so much I wept for my daughter’s future.
We have all been led to believe that it’s the women who have cried rape who have made it so difficult when, actually, only 3% of rape allegations could be false… 97% are true. Yet these “lying women” are still blamed, never the rapists. Of that 97% only 1.6% make it into court; bearing in mind is it estimated that there are 128,000 rape victims per year but only 20% actually report it; so that 1.6% would make the final percentage immeasurably small. The number of rapes recorded, as detailed in the latest Ministry of Justice’s Rape Review, has actually risen from 24,093 in 2015/2016 to 43,187 in 2019/2020. And why not, eh? We’ve been shown time and time again that a rapist will most likely get away with it.
I could write a book on the women I have spoken to, some are friends, some found me as they wanted to speak; the stories are piling up around me. The majority of women do not speak out entirely because they strongly fear they will not be believed. Every woman I speak with has either been sexually assaulted or knows someone who has been. Yet, no-one has known a man whose been convicted. A worrying amount of us knew a woman who had been killed. I knew two women whose lives have been ended this way. It’s abhorrent, and it’s happening all around us.
Gabby went to sleep at a party drunk and woke to find her friend’s brother trying to rape her, screamed for help and the police. She was locked in an upstairs bedroom alone while the party went on downstairs and made to wait for hours. No one believed her, telling her that he was married, so why would he rape her? The police didn’t take evidence off her clothing and she was sent home in a taxi. Now she’ll be remembered as the woman who cried rape at a party, a liability, not worth the risk of inviting again.
Emily worked two jobs. She was date raped by one of her bosses at a staff party. Her manager at her other job knew the man, but when she confided in that manager she was told she would ‘ruin his life’ if she went to the police, that her boss was a ‘family man’. Emily had to leave the first job and was sacked from the other a week after the rape for being late to work.
Liz was walking in town when she realized a man was following her. Liz tried to fool him with the direction she was walking, but he jumped out and tried to drag her into a bush. Despite managing to get away, when she got to her home her attacker was waiting for her. Threatening her with a knife he said if she went to the police he would come back and kill her. Liz did go to the police, they deduced he would have been stalking her and that they would come to her home to make an official statement that night. The police never came.
I know these women. I have spoken to them. Each one is a person, a person who is so much more than a statistic. These are the “lying women” whose stories are never met with justice. These are true stories, heard firsthand, but you won’t read about them ever going to court.
How do we stop this happening?
Well, how we stop it is: we teach children what is not okay, we discipline young boys for grabbing boobs and slapping arses, we teach clear sex education from aged five. And more than that, we need to learn to stand up and fight back – make the men scared of us. Take back our bodies and our lives. Not just for ourselves, but for every Gabby and Emily and Liz that we know.
This article is based on the findings of the ‘End-to-End Rape Review Report on Findings and Actions’ published by the Ministry of Justice on 18 June 2021. The report sets out an action plan for improving the Criminal Justice System’s response to rape in England and Wales.
All names have been changed.
By Constance Grace