I brought my rapist to court and won
It took Stacey*, 23, years to tell someone she’d been raped. But when she did, she got her life back.
I always thought rape happened down dimly lit alleyways, and your attacker was a stranger. It took me two years to realise I was a rape victim, but it wasn’t too late to do something.
When I was about 12 years old, I helped at my local youth group. We organised activities and camping trips – it was innocent fun. When our leader left, I became really close to her replacement Janine*. Her fiance used to drop her off each week and hang around to help out. Even though Stuart* was 24, he acted like a big kid and was great fun. I ended up spending a lot of time with him.
He made me feel special
I started going round to Janine and Stuart’s house for dinner and to play video games. As time went on, I liked Stuart more and more. After a while, he began inviting me over when Janine was at work. It was just the two of us. We’d watch films together and it made me feel special and mature to be alone with him.
I was around 14 when I started making a conscious effort to dress up nicely when I went to see Stuart. I wanted to please him. One day, when we were alone playing video games, he suggested we “make it more interesting” by making the loser remove a piece of clothing. I felt nervous, but I agreed.
The next thing I knew, Stuart was telling me he loved me and wanted to have sex with me. I was weirded out and uncomfortable, but at the same time I was pretty sure I loved him. This was the man I trusted and felt close to. That’s how he talked me into having sex with him.
I didn’t tell anyone
We continued to have sex, but I never felt comfortable. Eventually I felt so unhappy I ended it with Stuart. He begged me not to tell anyone what we had been doing. I thought he was a cheat, but even though I was under 16 and legally a child, it never even crossed my mind he was a paedophile. I agreed to keep quiet because I didn’t want to hurt him or Janine.
The secret was too much to bear
After I’d called it off, I didn’t feel better. I started to suffer depression. I stopped helping out at the youth group to keep away from Stuart and Janine, and spent more time at home. I became withdrawn, got into trouble at school and started self-harming. I couldn’t speak to anyone about my feelings.
EastEnders helped me confess
The years passed. One night, when I was 16, I was watching the TV soap EastEnders with my mum. It had a storyline on it about a girl in a relationship with her stepfather. I could see immediately how wrong that girl’s situation was, and that she needed help. Then I realised – I was that girl.
I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and suddenly I poured out the whole story to mum. The next morning she called the police. Two officers came to our house and interviewed me. The officer seemed harsh and callous – it felt like she doubted me. She asked: “So you didn’t actually say no then?”
That comment has stuck with me ever since. I felt so ashamed. I believed what had happened was my fault, and she made me feel worse. But although it was hard, it was important to report what had happened.
My life turned upside down
The police opened an official investigation. They arrested Stuart, searched his house, seized his computers, and gathered statements from all the adults and teenagers at the youth club to build their case against him. I had to go to a specialist place where child victims give a video statement to be used in court. My whole life turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Suddenly everyone around me was sad and angry – all the attention was on me.
I started to see a psychiatrist and went on medication for depression. We also went to therapy as a family. Eventually, over a year after reporting it, my case went to court.
As I hadn’t reported the rape at the time it happened, my lawyers had no physical evidence against Stuart. The police had also been unable to identify other victims, which would have strengthened my case. It was my word against his.
In court, the video statement I made was played for the jury. I was also cross-examined as I sat behind a screen so that I wouldn’t have to face Stuart. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I was in floods of tears.
Stuart’s team of lawyers needed to discredit me to get him off any conviction. They picked apart everything I said – they attacked me. My feelings of guilt and shame returned and I questioned if I was doing the right thing.
Luckily, Stuart hadn’t been very smart. He’d made no effort to hide our secret. After the evidence had been given, the jury came back with a unanimous guilty verdict within minutes.
After all this time, it was over. He received a sentence of five years. I felt relieved.
I’m stronger now
After Stuart had been in prison for a while, a woman from the court’s victim liaison team came to see me. She went through all the arrangements that would be in place when Stuart was released to protect me. These included setting out exclusion zones where he wasn’t allowed to go.
Stuart served 2 and a half years in prison and has been out on probation for a few years now. At first I was pretty scared, but to be honest, I rarely think about it anymore. I know that to stop living my life would be to let him win. I’ve decided he’s not going to take anything else away from me.
Telling my family and going through a trial were the most painful things I’ve ever done. But if I hadn’t got him convicted, I would still be looking over my shoulder. I wouldn’t have become the strong, confident, young woman I am now. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
*Names have been changed
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- Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
- Find your nearest Rape Crisis centre here.
- SurvivorsUK offers advice and support to male victims of rape and sexual assault. Text on 020 3322 1860.
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Updated on 08-Feb-2017
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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