This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
I was raped in October 2018. It happened in my bedroom. My rapist was someone I knew and had met before. We’d been on a date earlier that evening. The next morning, I reported it to the police.
Because I was raped in my flat, my bedroom became a crime scene. I couldn’t get back in for a few days and when I was finally allowed back, it was way too difficult. I couldn’t go on living in the flat, and because I’d been off work and was on medication, I was homeless.
My local council was awful. They ignored me for five months whilst I sofa-surfed with family and friends.
Eventually I got a solicitor through Solace Women’s Aid, and they helped me to be rehoused by my local council. But the hostel my council put me in was horrendous: it was 90 percent men, and they would sexually harass me. It was an awful environment for any woman to be in; let alone someone who had recently been raped.
My mental health was very low. I didn’t want to leave my room because I was scared of the guys who lived there. I was told by my rape crisis centre and the police that I shouldn’t go to therapy because my counselling notes would be used against me in court. (Editor’s note: VICE revealed that rape survivors are currently told by the CPS not to discuss details of their assault with therapists, and warned they may have their private counselling notes read out in court. Labour has since called for an emergency review into this guidance.) It was the worst period of my life. I didn’t see how I could ever be happy again. I was suicidal.
The police always told me that my case was positive, that I had a strong case. They weren’t very good at getting back to me – I had to chase them for updates – but at first I was optimistic that it would go to court.
Over time, I lost hope. One police officer told me that I had to stop being so “defensive” on the phone. That was upsetting. It felt like I was fighting the police, like I had to prove that I was the perfect rape victim, and unless I fitted into that very narrow box, they would’t believe me. But no rape victims fit into a perfect box – the perfect rape victim doesn’t exist.
In August 2019, I received a phone call from the police telling me that my case had been dropped. I was so angry. One of the reasons they gave me was that CCTV footage showed my rapist and I earlier on in the day, having fun on our date. Apparently I didn’t look like I was being harassed, or scared. But why would I? I had just been on a date with a man that I liked, whom I trusted, who was funny and charming. Of course I didn’t look scared on CCTV. Another supposed inconsistency was that I’d told my rapist on text before our date that I didn’t want to have sex because I was on my period. I struggle to understand the logic of how that would weaken my case – surely if anything, it strengthened it.
I’m one of many women who have had their rape cases dropped by the authorities. Figures released earlier this week from the CPS found that rape conviction rates are at their lowest level in over a decade. The number of rape convictions fell by 26 percent from 2017-18 to 2018-19, despite the fact that more women are coming forward to report.
For a long time, I was really angry. But I chose to waive my anonymity and speak out because I want to change the law. In particular, I want to end the ban on rape survivors being told not to go to therapy. To be told not to have counselling when you are in desperate need is literally a matter of life and death. The system has to change – that’s why I’ve started a petition calling on the government to end the ban.
At the moment, it feels like if you rape someone in the UK, you’ll get away with it. It makes me feel sick to think that my rapist could put another woman through this. But the whole thing feels much bigger than me personally. I have girls messaging me in my DMs all the time, telling me the same thing happened to them.
There are so many women out there who have been through the same, or worse, than me. I just think, how can this be happening to so many people? It’s like we’re all out here shouting, but no one is listening or paying attention.