After the trial: seeking justice for rape

Annie Moran, whose rapist was tried and convicted recently, expresses her misgivings about the current justice system and urges discussion about rape

Annie Moran, 4 March 2013

I wrote on this site before about the experience of reporting my rape to the police and my doubts about the system and the form of justice that awaited me and my rapist. The trial took place in December- going to court to give evidence against my rapist, was, is, will probably forever, remain the most painful, the most traumatic, the most gut wrenchingly terrifying thing I ever had to face. And though my rapist was found guilty and convicted, I feel like I am still waiting for justice.

My hand is shaking so much I can barley lift the plastic cup from the bench to my mouth. It makes what seems to me like the loudest sound in the world as it crunches beneath my unsteady hand. I glance across the room, a room much smaller than I ever expected. To my left I know he stands, but he is blocked by screens that remind me of high school art display boards. Across sit the 12 people in whose hands lie my and my rapist's lives. Not a single one of them looks me in the eye. Some stare at the floor, some at the ceiling, some intently scribble on their pads of paper. A few of them look in my direction. But none of them look me in the eye.

Nothing could have ever prepared me for this. Not the 15 months of waiting since the day I went to the police to get here. Not the two days of waiting in the witness services room, while unexpected details were settled in court, watching old school movies on VHS and struggling to keep down even half a sandwich. Not the five minutes chat with my barrister where she tells me they often get funny results in December because "Well no one likes to put someone in prison over Christmas." Not the last minute cigarettes outside the back of the court, the sun sitting low in the winter sky, so beautiful I want to stay there, outside all of this, forever.

Nothing could have prepared me for their version of events attacking me, blaming me, making me doubt myself

Old Bailey.jpgNothing could have prepared me for the frustration of the strange and seemingly meaningless details I am made to go over and over again for nearly two days. Or for the nice guy routine of the defense barrister, commenting on my choice of clothing on the night in question to raise a laugh from those in the room. Or for the unexpected surprises coming from both sides in court: photos to look at of places I had only been in my darkest hour, details of the story, long blanked through trauma from my mind, being filled with details I will never be sure were true.

Nothing could have prepared me for their version of events being presented in such a way, attacking me, blaming me, making me doubt myself, making me physically quake at the knees. Nothing could have prepared me for that last little bit of myself that I had managed to hold on to through all of this, that bit that knew why I was fighting, that bit that believed in myself, being broken into such tiny pieces I'm still not sure it will, if it can, ever be repaired.

The pain was at times almost overwhelming. And yet through it all I always knew I was a lucky one.

I was a lucky one because I came out of court and fell destroyed into the arms of my boyfriend, who had responded to this whole process, to what it had done to me, above and beyond anything you could ever expect. Because I was engulfed by friends who had not only been there at every step, but who had even taken the stand to support me. As they all supported me, as I talked to my family and let them in a little, as I went over things with my SOIT officer, I realised how I had stayed so strong. I had stayed strong because I was a lucky one, it was only ever the defense who had questioned what I said. Not once outside of that court room had I faced questioning, accusations or judgment from my friends and family. I was supported by people who believed, trusted and loved me, unquestionably, unconditionally. Without that I can honestly say I'm not sure I would be here. But it is without this that many women have to fight through this ordeal.

I am white, middle class and articulate - everything they wanted their victim to be. But not all women 'fit the bill'

I was a lucky one because I listened to the police give feedback to me and my friends tell us how well we had come across, how eloquent we had sounded. I knew what they were really saying was that I was white, middle class, seemingly straight (though the defense are not allowed to ask, the prosecution still brought up sexuality and sexual history in the context of rebuking a line of his defense), and spoke English well (though I think they would have preferred it hadn't been with a Northern accent since they brought it up twice in court). But even with my accent I was clearly educated and articulate. I was everything they wanted their victim to be. But not all women 'fit the bill' - many women have to fight multiple societal oppressions at every stage of this process, I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like on top of everything else.

I was a lucky one because after the trauma of giving evidence, after a court case that went on a week longer than expected, after 3 of the most tortuous days I have ever sat through waiting, jumping every time my phone went off - after all of this, when the phone finally rang, my SOIT officer, who, after frosty early months, I had actually come to like and rely on, delivered me from the torture with one small word in a delighted voice. Guilty.

I went into our justice system expecting a place where I could begin to understand - I couldn't have been more wrong

I am one of the 6% of women who report rape to the police who get to hear that word. I am a 'lucky' one. Then why do I feel so bad?

I feel so bad because despite getting a guilty verdict I still don't understand anything, not what happened that night or what happened in court. In fact I seem to have less resolution now than I did before I started this.

I went into our justice system hoping for a place where I could begin to understand. I wanted court to be a place where we both laid down our versions of events, where he could begin to understand what had gone so catastrophically wrong and where I could begin to understand why. Perhaps, again, this was me being naïve, but I honestly thought court might give us a chance to do that.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The court process was basically just a chance for two barristers who had only been handed the facts the morning of the court case to wade through them with a highlighter and decide what points to fight on. It was a process about process, about who had dotted their I's and crossed their T's, rather than about truth. The police were so happy to have won, not for me, but because for once they weren't the ones to have fucked up. They actually said as much. I learnt nothing, and understood even less.

And it has left me even more unsure about whether I have done the right thing. Undoubtedly we need our justice system to work to fight against the rape culture we live in. But with the doubts I personally have about the current justice system and about what happens within our prison system, I can never be sure if I agree that this was the right course of action for me.

People don't like to talk about rape, they visibly flinch when you say the word

End Rape Culture2.jpgWithout an understanding of what really happened in that courtroom and what he was really thinking, I am left with less than what I started with. I am left not only with the trauma of what actually happened, but also with the trauma I encountered throughout the court case. And perhaps worse than the trauma, I am left with the guilt of my insecurity over what the right thing to do was. My brain will just not turn off as it goes over it all again and again, questioning, wondering. I am also left feeling more scared than ever. Because one day he will get out of prison, so now I have to deal with the perpetual fear that he will come looking for me, and he will hurt me, or even worse, he will hurt someone I love. And so I'm still not quite sure this whole thing was worth it.

Perhaps with time I will feel different. I really do hope so, and I certainly don't want to put people off doing what they think is right. Because for each person this happens to, this is a personal journey where different choices give different results and different ways of healing. But I can't lie, I can't sugar coat what it was like for me. Personally I think there are much better ways to heal and much better ways to fight than in our current justice system. That's why now I know I have to start to fight for a better justice system, one that truly changes and transforms not just the survivor but also the perpetrator and the society we live in.

If we don't start talking about rape, we are hiding from the truth of our society

We live in a culture that is scared of the word rape. People don't like to talk about it, they visibly flinch when you say it. But we live in a world where women are raped every minute of every day. Not just in India, but right here in the UK too. Not just by strangers, mostly by people they know. And until we can talk about that, how can we ever hope to make it better?

So that's why I had to write this. If there's one thing this whole process has done, it has been to take me from the scared young woman who was afraid to tell people what had happened for fear of judgment, to someone who wants to write about it, to talk about it, to shout about it. Because why shouldn't I talk about it? I was raped, part of the reason I was raped is because we live in a rape culture. The judgment should be of my rapist and of society. It should not be a judgment on me.

All of us, women and men, have to start talking about rape. If we don't talk about it, we are not only hiding from the truth of our society, we are hiding from ourselves. 45% of us will suffer some form of abuse because of the fact that we are a self defining woman. We live in a rape culture. Our current justice system can never hope to heal that. Only we together can. So let's start talking. And let's use the word. Rape. It happens. Here. Now. To someone you know.

Photograph of the Old Bailey court building in London, uploaded by Flickr user Steve Harris. Photograph of a protester holding up a sign reading "END RAPE CULTURE," uploaded by Chase Carter.

Comments From You

The Goldfish // Posted 05 March 2013 at 11:36

Thank you so much for writing about this. Wishing you all the best in the coming months. Hope things get easier for you very soon.

Laura // Posted 05 March 2013 at 21:34

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm really glad you were able to write about what you've been through: you make a powerful case for the importance of talking about rape and tackling rape culture. I wish you all the very best for the future.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 10 March 2013 at 16:43

This is such an an incredibly article. I've only just been able to bring myself to read it, but it is so powerful and I thank Annie for writing it. It is hard to read, and it must have been much harder to write, but getting women's voices out there speaking the truth is vital.

The Quick Throw In // Posted 11 March 2013 at 19:54

One reason why you might not have understood what was going on in Court may be that you were not involved in the entire prosecution case. Its the Crown, in the form of the CPS, that prosecutes and your role in it was 'reduced' - as far as evidence-giving was concerned - to that of a witness. I don't know what happens with complainant (you in this case) - are you given an opportunity to comment on other prosecution evidence ahead of the trial ? I'm presuming that this wouldn't have been the case.

@leepster // Posted 05 April 2013 at 18:14

Wow, I just happened upon this article, so my comment comes a while after you wrote it, but I wanted to say thanks for writing it, and for speaking the truth. It's really powerful, and your strength helps others. lee x

One Undone // Posted 08 April 2013 at 14:02

Annie,

Well done. Well done on going through the process, well done on sharing it with us. And from a woman who has been there and done it too: it DOES get better.

'Jessica'

BarelyFeelLikeARapeSurvivor // Posted 28 May 2013 at 08:27

Dear Annie:
I just ran into this site. I AM about to begin my case. I live in the U.S. and, well, it is going before a grand jury to decide if to continue on with an indictment, where he will be arrested. I too, like yourself, find that I want to talk about it...it's just too much to keep inside. I want to know why he did it! I want him to tell me! ..and hopefully one day, he will explain to me...I'm not the same: nightmares, lots of triggers, sad, mad, intense fear (he knows where I live) and other feelings. I told him no. I tried to talk my way out of it and just because I did not fight him back, it seems that the rape did not happen. NO ONE, I MEAN NO ONE wants to talk about this four letter word, RAPE, well, I do! Perhaps he thought he dominated me and that was it but I am following through. I have to. I did happen, I was raped and if I have to talk about all of the things the defense lawyer(s) bring up..the sexual stuff, then I will....but my story stays the same because it did happen. I had not been drinking and was really scared from beginning to end. I even told him he was really scaring me....he did not say a single word. The way he did it...it seems that he knew what he was doing which leads me to believe that he's done this before. I'm scared. I'm scared of him, scared of him coming to my house or sending someone, I'm scared of the experience of what it will be like on the stand and how well my attorney(s) will fight for me, I'm scared that he will be NOT guilty, I'm scared that if he IS guilty what he may do while he's locked up and when he gets out. I'm a stronger female probably than what he was used to. He though he could get away with it.."No, you can't get away with touching me and raping me when I had already said "NO!" This is such an emotional roller coaster and I do not have support from family or friends. I'm doing this alone. I fear that something may happen to me, but at least I will go down fighting for what is right and with a purpose to protect the rest of the women here and surrounding areas. Everytime something happens, I think, "Wow, this is that hardest thing I've ever had to do." Really, surviving a rape is the hardest thing I will have to do, and I will be doing it all of my life. I may win and he may get months or years because there is not enough time that they get!!! He may serve a couple of years.....but I get life. It's unfair. I need all of the support I can get and have found some but not enough and am still going through the steps and all. I feel like I'm going to be fighting him alone, the way I should have fought that night but I knew if I would have fought him, with the way he already had threatened me, I knew that he would hurt me. This crying, fear, anxiety, sadness and other feelings...I don't know when they will stop or subside since this was very recent. Well, now it's time for me to fight in court...I may have to embarrass myself with the stupid questions they will ask to make me look like the criminal instead of him...but I have to bring light to this problem that this type of individual is out here and does not belong out here in our society. I'm trying to find ways to prepare myself for this court battle. What are your suggestions? All of you and Annie's? :'''( I know they are going to tear me to pieces and need to be strong but can you ladies please give me an idea of how better I can prepare for this??

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Annie Moran

Annie Moran is a pseudonym

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