I really want to quit my job. I haven’t had a fucking break from working in like two years apart from the two weeks I took off for the court case and the couple of weeks I took off for the one before that. I don’t know what to do anymore. I need some time to recover from all the pain built up inside me over the last few years. Working while in the process of trying to heal just isn’t working for me. I am at a loss and I feel completely helpless.
This year so far has been a great one and a really, really bad one at the same time. My victory of winning the court case and putting the man who had been free for too long, in prison will forever be one of my greatest moments of my life. I sometimes forget how strong I really am and then someone like my boyfriend or mum will remind me of the strength I had during the trial and I’ll realise my capabilities and inner power all over again. For example, when I was in conversation with my mum a couple of weeks ago about being stressed out and she said that not many people would be able to go through what I did (in terms of the court case), not even she would be able to have done so without freaking out and having a mental breakdown, it made me realise that even though the memories of the court case seem very unreal - almost like I wasn’t even there, I was. I did defeat the man who raped me and because of me, he is in jail now. I must not forget this. For such a little girl, my age and size is definitely not a correct description of my strength, determination and bravery which fooled this predator into thinking he could get away with messing with me. Little did he know, that in that split second he refused to accept that I didn’t consent, his whole future would change and that a couple and a half years later, he’d be sitting in a jail cell, labelled as a rapist. I mean, could his life get any shitter?
Although I have experienced an unforgettable moment which will help shape me for the better, the moments surrounding the rapist being convicted and the time leading up to it, is also unforgettable and still affecting me now, negatively.
“You didn’t try to kick him off though and he wasn’t holding your arms tightly (there were no bruises) so he wasn’t threatening you. He wasn’t threatening you was he??”asked the defence barrister.
“He was threatening me because he was raping me” I replied in a stern voice, trying to keep my anger under control. This was at the magistrate’s court where they had to see if there was enough evidence for the case to go further. The rapist couldn’t afford to keep the same defence barrister so when the case did go further to the county court, there was a new bastard of a defence barrister (maybe a better name would be a no-soul embarrassment of a human being?), funded through legal aid. The questions at the county court were worse and so was the humiliation I was put under, this time in front of a jury.
“How short was your skirt?” the defence barrister asked me.
“Point on your leg to give the jury an indication of how short your skirt was on the night” said the judge.
I was horrified. Without standing, I slightly pointed half way down my thigh while in absolute shock, thinking in my head, “how the fuck does this have anything to do with the fact that I was raped??”. I then had to give an explanation on how far down the length of my skirt was from my hips and how many centimetres above my knee it was. This was NOTHING compared to what I was in store for later on though.
Months before the county court, I had handed the phone I was using on the night of the incident into police. This is because the defence barrister at the magistrate’s court was questioning me on phone calls etc, to do with the night and asked if I could hand it in for further investigation. I agreed to hand it in because I had nothing to hide and didn’t think it was very relevant to the incident on the night anyway, therefore there would be nothing they could use against me because I was truthful about everything. Although if I had known the extent of how the defence can twist things around, use material that is completely irrelevant and actually just make up whatever they want to make you look bad (things you wouldn’t even expect to be legal), I would have thought twice about agreeing to hand over my phone. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have at all if I knew it meant being abused again, this time in the court room.
While the defence barrister questioned me on the mobile phone I had been using that night, I answered the questions with ease (well as much ease as possible considering the circumstances) because as with all the other questions, I answered everything truthfully and when it came down to it, that was the best I could do. I’d admitted to everything that could have possibly made me look bad, such as conversation I had engaged in with the rapist days before the assault which may have been considered “inappropriate” by their books (even though I was an eighteen year old vulnerable girl at the time and the rapist was a 34 year old man and my boss who actually started these conversations in the first place, taking advantage of his position so I just followed, unsure of how to react), along with the fact that I hadn’t spoken to my boyfriend in a couple of days or even told him I was going out that night, I admitted to everything truthfully no matter how bad it seemed. When it came down to it, the fact that I did not consent to sex and the fact that I was raped, had NOTHING to do with any of the circumstances surrounding the incident. I could have met up with the rapist completely naked and told him all my most personal sexual stories and that STILL wouldn’t give him a right to rape me. I knew that the jury would be able to see my honesty as a person and that as long as I told the truth about everything, including everything that could possibly make me look bad, or “slutty” or even untrustworthy, they would know that I did not want the rape. I have a feeling they knew already though before I had a chance to speak, that there was pain there.
So after being questioned about the phone, the defence barrister then did something I was not expecting. Something I could not understand, how was it even possible? He passed over to the clerk to hand to me, a booklet of A4 size pages, stapled together. I looked down at this booklet. The front page was a half-naked photo of me which I had sent to my boyfriend years ago and months before the assault. I turned to the next page. Another half-naked photo I had sent to my boyfriend. Next page. Another one. There were about 8 pages in total of blown up half-naked photos of me, the last one being completely naked with just my hair covering my nipples, all which I’d sent via text to my boyfriend, thinking we’d be the only people in the world to have ever had viewed them. It had been so long since I’d seen these photos of my 17 year old self that I’d almost forgotten they’d existed. I realised that the defence had retrieved these photos from the phone but I didn’t know why. I was so confused and angry, I could feel my heart burning while I felt an anxiety attack coming on and I knew I was soon about to burst into tears. Then each and every jury member was handed one of these booklets and I watched as these complete strangers flicked through pages of my bare, young (and yet to be raped), body. How was this happening to me? I thought. What the fuck is going on?
Before it went any further, the judge announced it was lunch break. I moved as quickly as I could from the court room to the waiting room outside the court room. The policeman in charge of my case followed along with a victim support lady. As soon as the door closed, I broke into tears. I cried so hard in shock I couldn’t speak for a while. As soon as I had enough air to talk, in between tears, I questioned the policeman repetitively, saying “Why are they doing this to me??”….”How did they get those photos??”…”How does this have anything to do with the case??”. I was in such disbelief; I didn’t know how much more I could take. I then remember saying “I knew the justice system was bad but I didn’t know they could go this far”. Of course the policeman couldn’t comment on anything to do with the case during the trial until it was over so he and the support lady did their best to keep me calm. The best advice I was probably given by the policeman was “his lawyer is trying to get this reaction from you. This is his card and he wants you to breakdown. When you go back in there, just be relaxed and be like, those are just photos I sent to my boyfriend, so what?”. This is exactly what I did. Just in probably more of a “how dare you” kind of tone.
After lunch break and I was called back into the court room to the stand, the defence barrister started making up stories that I’d shown these photos to the rapist before I was raped that night. They had absolutely no evidence that I’d done so and I think it would have become quite clear to the jury that this wasn’t the case considering my response too. I denied the allegation and then went on to say “I don’t understand how this even has anything to do with the case, these are private photo’s I sent to my boyfriend months before the incident that I would never, ever, ever want the offender to see and I just don’t get what it has to do with anything.” The defence barrister continued to try to push this fucked up lie but continued getting shut down by me and looking like an absolute fool. I guess it worked in my favour in the end but this isn’t to say the whole incident didn’t affect me.
Firstly, I think it’s disgusting that it’s even legal to show underage porn to jury members in the court room. They are still members of the public and if instead, the defence barrister had gone around trying to hand out these booklets to them on the street, he would be charged with possession of child pornography. So why is it okay in the court room? What about me? Why do my rights disappear and why, especially as a victim of rape, is it okay to expose me? Why the fuck, is the whole justice system so far back into the dark ages? When are we going to realise that it isn’t okay to re-abuse victims in the court room and that some of these laws desperately need to be changed, for they have an affect on society in general by allowing the amount of offenders to grow and less victims to come forward in fear of either being blamed or abused further. I mean, the reason behind those photo’s being used were not only to throw me off but also to make me look like a “slut” and less credible. There I was, standing up on the stand in my blazer looking all professional and being completely truthful and since the defence already knew I would be a massive challenge for them, they thought they’d do whatever they could to make me look like I consented to the sex. They could only really work with twisting things around or making things up and therefore painting a picture of me being a “slut” was the best they could do because of course, if I was the type of girl who took naked pictures and acted slutty, the sex would have definitely been consensual. Who were they kidding. It still makes me feel sick.