Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Jackie

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Jackie was doing well at school, socially and academically, until an event happened that had devastating consequences on her life. When she was in her early teens a teacher at her school raped her and it was 30 years before she was able to report it to the police.

The rape had a profoundly negative and lasting effect on her life, and she has clear views on how investigation processes and the judicial system could be improved to support victims more effectively.

With hindsight, Jackie can see that she was groomed by the teacher, James. He invited her to his home for tea, introduced her to his wife and child and asked her to babysit for them on a couple of occasions.

One time, Jackie arrived at James’s home but found that neither his wife nor the child was there.

This was when he raped her.

She has vivid memories of the room where the attack took place. She believes she disassociated from the experience, as she has a clear recollection of watching herself on the bed during the rape. Afterwards she returned home, had a bath and did not tell anyone what had happened to her for many years.

Jackie described how deeply ashamed she felt about being raped, and the major impact the event has had on her life. Her good performance and demeanour at school changed dramatically as she displayed her distress by losing her temper and fighting. But no one in school asked her what was wrong, and she recalled that James had told her that no one would believe her if she reported the rape.

In the following years, Jackie says she ‘got on with her life’. She entered a professional career, married and had a family. However, the abuse affected her physical interactions with her children. For example, she struggled to give lengthy hugs. She also found it difficult when her husband touched her.

Additionally, when her child began to reach adolescence, this triggered extreme anxiety in Jackie. She recalls that the idea of letting her child go to clubs and extracurricular activities terrified her.

She was diagnosed with depression and referred to a psychiatrist. Jackie describes feeling failed by mental health services. On disclosing the sexual abuse for the first time to the psychiatrist, she was handed a prescription and told to return in three months. She left and headed to a remote area with thoughts of committing suicide.

It was, she says, the first person she had trusted to tell: ‘But I felt like he didn’t believe me.’ Her mental health deteriorated; she lost her job and had repeated voluntary admissions to hospital. She engaged in art therapy and again disclosed the sexual abuse, naming James.

She says the art therapy was helpful but she feels let down that her account of the rape was not reported and she was not in a position to do this herself.

More than 30 years after the rape, Jackie, supported by a therapist, reported it to the police. She recalls feeling afraid she would not be listened to or believed. The case went to trial, after lengthy delays, repeated changes of personnel involved, and several false starts.

Jackie states that the trial was significantly delayed when her recollection of events was challenged. This was despite her vivid memories. Jackie believes that the impact of trauma on memory is not clearly understood. Instead memories are assumed to be false.

Jackie describes the years of waiting for the trial to take place as ‘like torture’. She was appalled at the manner in which she was treated by the defence barrister. She felt she was treated like a criminal. She says: ‘I was made to repeat details of stuff I didn’t want to say to anyone … my husband heard it all. I didn’t want him to know that about me. I felt totally let down.’

Jackie comments on how difficult it was during the investigation to repeatedly build trust and relationships with police officers, only to have to start again with another person due to the delays waiting for the trial.

She feels strongly there should be better continuity and recognition of the huge impact that lengthy waits and delays in the judicial system have on survivors.

She would like to see a review of the tactics that barristers are permitted to use, such as reading comments from a diary out of context; commenting on clothing; suggesting the jury should feel sorry for the victim as she has mental health problems, rather than the mental health problems being caused by the abuse. For example, Jackie notes that the defence barrister suggested that she has a personality disorder.

Jackie comments that if the barrister understood personality disorders, they would have realised that often people who receive this diagnosis have experienced child abuse and not used this to undermine her. 

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