Notes from a Survivor: II

The response to my last post has been overwhelming. Thank you to all of those who have sent messages of support, kindness and encouragement on Twitter/Facebook. I am very glad that what I have written has got people thinking, and that it’s had a positive impact.

I have to admit, however, that I’m not entirely comfortable with being called ‘brave’. For me, speaking out about the injustice I’ve come face-to-face with, was always just the natural thing to do. From the time I heard that the case had been dropped in October, there was never really a choice; I had to get my side across because an incredibly dangerous man had been allowed to walk free. Not to stand up and say “Hang on, this is so wrong” would not have been right, even though doing so opened me up to public scrutiny. As I have nothing to hide, that was never really a concern for me. I wanted the world to know that there was a huge human cost attached to the CPS decision to close to the case. That there was a woman (actually, it was women) who had been put through hell in the fight to obtain justice and prevent an evil individual from offending again.

He was and still is, free to re-offend. It is my sincere belief, which is shared by the other woman who came forward to the police to say he’d raped her too, that he will attack more women. There is a clear pattern in his behaviour, and it makes me so very angry that the chance to apprehend him has been missed. How many more will suffer before he’s finally brought to justice?

It is beyond clear at this point that he is incapable of recognising that what he did to me, and others, was wrong. I don’t think he will ever see it for what it was, which was rape. Perhaps because he’s not able to comprehend the idea of being told ‘No’ – such is his level of entitlement. Even when a woman was crying and fighting to get him off her, he didn’t pause to ask if she was okay or think something was wrong. He continued to hurt me, even when I was visibly distressed and begging him to stop.

It is difficult for me to contemplate how he could even try to claim, to the police and others, that it was consensual. It obviously wasn’t. I know how hard I fought him that night. How clear it was that I was upset and in obvious pain. How much noise I made, in the hope the neighbours would hear. How I tried to think of a way to get help without him hurting me even more… But, as one of the detectives on my case told me: “I’ve got the measure of him, Lisa. I don’t meet many men who are accused of rape that don’t try to argue it was consensual”. I’m with her on this. Few rapists admit they’re rapists. Even when confronted with stark evidence of what they’ve done, they always claim that their victim wanted it.

On a personal level, I really struggle with the knowledge I have done all that I can but that it isn’t enough to potentially prevent others going through something similar at his hands. I really, really struggle to accept that there is nothing I can do. I wouldn’t wish what I have gone through on anyone. From the day I reported that I had been beaten and raped, it has been a living nightmare. Everything that could go wrong – and shouldn’t have – has done. I am living the worse case scenario.

Every day, I am left wondering whether I’ll get a phone call to tell me that he’s been arrested again for a similar offence. I think about the women he associates with now, and how much I want to tell them to stay away from him because they aren’t safe around him. They think that they are, on the basis that he hasn’t raped them. I’m sure they tell themselves all sorts of things about me to justify dismissing my account. That I’m mad. Unstable. A psycho. The list goes on, I’ve heard it all. But, whatever they, and he, may say about me and the other woman he hurt, I still worry about them and wouldn’t forgive myself if he hurt them.

Now, I’m sure they’ve imposed a distinction between ‘me’ and ‘them’ and say:

“Oh, he’d never do that to me”

“Well, it was her. She’s a bit odd. I’m sure she deserved it”

“She’s a liar. I know he’d never do that because he’s so nice… he isn’t that kind of guy”

“He told me she’s psychotic”

“I don’t really know her, believing him is easier” etc etc.

Whatever it is that causes them to doubt the separate accounts (that are two years apart, in different circumstances) of two different, highly educated women who had minimal contact with each other prior to both going to the police, isn’t important.

Standing by your friend is important. Even when he’s been accused of rape by multiple women. They’re sure he’s not that kind of guy because they’ve known him for so long. He’s never hurt them and they’ve never seen him hurt anyone. Those women? Yeah, they’re just liars aren’t they?

Even when there is no evidence to suggest that these women have told anything but the truth. They know what perjury is, they know what the consequences for them would be if they were found to have lied. And who would lie about being raped? Really? Do they really think that the Metropolitan Police – who have one of the best specialist sexual crime units in the world – can’t tell a malicious complaint from a genuine one? That they don’t know what a rape victim looks or acts like?

Ask yourself: who would subject themselves to an 18-month long police investigation, in which every aspect of their lives is dissected and their correspondence from the last five years is forensically combed through. Lay on a bed, with their legs up in stirrups for twenty minutes as a doctor tries to ascertain if they have internal bruising?  Give the police their entire medical record history for review? And face the prospect of a criminal trial, even though they know they’ll be cross-examined into the ground and that their sex life will become a subject for public consumption.

Why would someone want to go through that? Either they’re telling the truth or they’re lying so well that they can deceive their friends, their doctors, their employers AND the police. Let’s think about it: if it gets to the point that a trial date has been set, multiple lawyers and police officers have examined the evidence and everything about the woman who has come forward. And you know what? They couldn’t find anything to suggest she’s told anything but the truth. In fact, what they actually find is three previous police reports on file from the same woman, all involving the man who raped her. He has form, you see. He’s hurt her before.

But his female friends don’t know that. They don’t know what this man is like when he’s not around them. They don’t know – or don’t care – that he feeds them lies about a woman he has systematically abused for years. No, he’s just ‘that guy’ that they drink with. He’d never hurt them. He buys them drinks and makes them laugh. He’s not ‘the kind of guy’ that rapes and abuses women. I’d tell myself all this too – it’s easier than confronting the fact you might have been hanging out with a serial rapist.

Some days, these things are all I can think about and I lose sleep because I am so desperate to protect these women from the reality they will not or cannot face.  I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone – even those who have slandered me and sent me abusive messages. I will never be friends with these people, but it will never stop me fearing for their safety because, in their nice little compartment that doesn’t come into contact with his darker side, they cannot see what a dangerous man he really is.

I wish I could tell them to run. Run away from him at full speed and don’t look back. You don’t owe him anything. It comes down to this: do you really want to take the chance in assuming that two women – Oxbridge graduates, with everything to lose and nothing to gain – lied for no obvious reason?  Either they’re lying or your ‘lovely’ male friend is. He will never admit what he did, because he either believes or has managed to convince himself that he did nothing wrong.

Do you really want to take a chance on someone who will always be followed around by the question of whether or not he assaulted two women in the worst ways possible? Will you ever be able to trust him? There must be a shadow of doubt or concern. Some little voice, that is probably suppressed, that periodically pops into your brain: ‘What if he did do that?’. Don’t let that voice, however small, go away. Always remain hesistant. From one woman, one person and one human being to another: please, at least consider getting away now. I promise you that you will see, eventually, who he really is. It will hurt and scare you to see how mistaken you were. How you could have been so wrong. I was like that once. I would never, in a million years, have thought he would or could do what he did to me that night. I will live with that misjudgement for the rest of my life.

The burden of my fear, for anyone my rapist comes into contact to, is tremendous. I should have been able to bring him to justice. Because I didn’t, it feels like anything untoward that happens with him and any other young women will be my fault. I should have been able to stop him.

How do you cope with that knowledge?

Answer? You don’t. You just learn to live with it and hope that when that phone call comes to say that he’s done it again, months or years from now, that the next woman doesn’t suffer too much.

That’s all you can do.