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I was raped on 25th August 2010. I was held prisoner in my own home and repeatedly raped and tortured. I was left with numerous physical injuries and required plastic surgery. I was also left with dreadful emotional scars and now live with debilitating PTSD.
There was overwhelming physical and forensic evidence and my perpetrator had an extensive criminal record and was in fact on the run when he attacked me. A year after my rape, my case went to trial at crown court. What I found most extraordinary was that, unlike the defendant, I did not have any opportunity to engage with the barrister prior to the trial and the only preparation I had was being given my victim impact statement on the day the trial started.
I was expecting the trial to be aggressive and that I would have to re-live the trauma by being cross-examined however nothing could have prepared me for the experience of giving evidence.
Surprisingly very little of the attack was questioned, which was initially most welcome, that is until the defence barrister asked me about personal issues which were (in my opinion) completely unconnected and irrelevant to the case. Without going into any detail I shall list these and you can make up your own minds:
1. My looks and dress sense
2. The financial viability of my business
3. My age (I was 40 and the defendant was 20)
4. The type of man I was attracted to
5. My family relationships, particularly my mother
6. My drug and alcohol use
7. My mental health history
8. The type of sex I enjoyed
9. My medical records, from birth to date
Ultimately my rapist was found guilty.
I have spent many years campaigning for the rights of victims and for a fair and more transparent system which would make it easier for victims to report. I wish to raise awareness of the complex issues faced by victims in the aftermath of rape, especially when in the court system.
Just 5 days after my mums funeral I walked into a Cheshire police station to disclose the sexual abuse I had suffered as a 12 year old boy.
Nobody else in the world had any idea where I was or what I was doing. In fact nobody was even aware of the abuse. This was Monday February 4th 2013 and to be fair to Cheshire police at that time I was treated well after my disclosure. I felt respected and listened to. I would travel back to Macclesfield just 2 days later to do my video statement.
My issues started on June 5th when I received my CPS letter informing me that my case would not be pursued as it was NOT in the public Interest to prosecute my offender.
(It’s such a long story, please read ‘My Full Truth, It was always in the Public Interest’ by David Lean.)
Remember this is now July 2013 and my offenders name is Barry Bennell…….
I demanded an appeal and eventually after almost 7 months I was informed that my case had changed the prosecution guidance in favour of pursuing cases such as mine as being in the public interest. (Did we really need to change the law, it should have been that way anyway!)
Barry Bennell was charged with four offences in March 2014.
I was then informed I would have to wait 15 months for the case to get to court. These people have no idea what this period of your life is like. I had already been waiting 13 months to get to this point. To try and function, to hold down a job when only a few people knew about the abuse was such a difficult period in my life.
Fast forward to April 2015, I was waiting to give evidence at court in the trial when I was told Bennell had just pleaded guilty to the charges. I knew immediately this meant trial, no media attention to help raise awareness and bring others forward and more importantly I knew he would then get rewarded for his plea in the form of a reduced sentence. I was devastated. After all this time of him pleading not guilty and putting me through hell, he can then do what he wants on the day of the trial and be rewarded!
A month later I was attending Court under special measures to read my victim impact statement. Court officials met me and took me to a private room. Then when it was time they came and got me and left me outside the Courtroom….alone with my abuser !!
The one thing I had said all along was that I couldn’t cope with seeing his new look, his current appearance. I had enough issues with the past, I didn’t need the issue of knowing what he looked like now.
As soon as he was led into Court I fell apart and then just seconds later I was asked to go into Court. I was a mess yet they didn’t care. As I was walking in I asked ‘the screens are up aren’t they?’ I was then immediately bundled out of the Courtroom, as guess what, they had completely forgotten to erect the screens! This was the last thing I needed.
Anyway he was sent to prison for 2 years, having to serve just one as offenders only serve half their sentence?! I also know that 1 year was knocked off his sentence for that ‘early plea’. Early??
So at this stage, Bennell was convicted and even though I had told police in 2013, there could be 100s of victims, that he was obsessed with me once we were alone, he wouldn’t leave me alone for a second during my 2 night stay at his house, I felt the police had done a good job. I had never been in a police station prior to February 2013 and was very naïve.
My issues were very much with the CPS and Crown Court Officials at that time. The court changed their own procedures on how vulnerable victims are taken into court on the back of my case. They also apologised.
Most people think that a conviction is the end of the process. But this was just the beginning………
In November 2016 as the story of abuse within football broke I finally told my own truth to Sky News. Bennell was finally convicted of offences against 12 boys in March 2018 and sentenced to 31 years in prison. I always knew there would be more, as it turned out probably around 100 boys have now disclosed to police.
Whilst I was stood outside the Crown Court after Bennell was sentenced, I was informed by a reporter that when I first disclosed in 2013, police had already been aware of other victims from a previous 1998 case, so they could have brought additional charges relating to those victims, meaning my original case would not have been dropped.
I complained to Cheshire police and as a result of this I learnt that there were 23 children who came forward in the 90s case against Bennell but that they offered him a plea deal meaning some charges were laid on file meaning NONE could be used in any future cases.
I also learnt that after Bennell’s conviction in the 90s, Bennell himself asked to see police in a prison interview. At the start of this interview he asks for assurances that if he provides further names of other victims that he will not be prosecuted. These assurances were given!! Bennell himself then provided the names of nine other children who he admitted to sexually abusing.These are nine more, not part of the original 23 who disclosed!
I obviously wanted answers as to why the other victims were not contacted to strengthen my 2013 case and was advised it would have been viewed as a ‘going fishing trip’ or ‘trawling’!
So Barry Bennell names them and it would have been seen as trawling?
To make matters worse I was then told that during late 2016/early 2017 the police had attempted to trace the extra nine victims and the ones they could trace had been contacted. So most of the nine were now allowed to be contacted but not 3 years earlier in 2013? So when I had told the police that there would be more, asking them to let me go to the media, the police already had a list of names!
I eventually received an apology from the police and have been promised an independent inquiry by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
I believe that I have still not got to the full truth, this is all about change for me, to ensure others don’t go through what I went through, and continue to go through.
I also found out that in November 2016 when Bennell was put back in prison while the new investigation was going on, that I should have been informed as this could only happen as he was still on licence for the offences against myself. I should also have been informed that he was due to be released prior to May 2016 at his half way point of his sentence. On both occasions nobody contacted me. Again, I received an apology for the way I was treated.
The criminal justice system, in my experience, was completely unprofessional in so many different ways.
But I was a lucky one !! Lucky……
I got my conviction; it brought others forward. I have family and friends around me. I am strong and resillient. Change has been brought about, which I only hope will help others in the future.
I believe my Truth was and will always be….
In the public Interest !!
Having reported my own rape to the police I was immediately told that I would not be allowed to talk about the assault with my best friend as she was a witness in the case, as I had disclosed the offence to her prior to me reporting it. Having found the courage to speak out I was silenced by the system, effectively having my support removed. I was also not allowed to discuss any details of the incident with my ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Adviser). The system had decreed that I was to live with the trauma of the rape on my own until after the investigation had concluded.
It wasn’t long into the investigation that I realised the system was set up to protect the rights of the defendant rather than the victim. I was not allowed to know what the defendant had said during his interview; he was obviously (and rightly) told what I had said. I was asked to provide my mobile phone as evidence. His mobile phone was not seized.
Waiting for the trial was agonising and being unable to talk about what had happened had a detrimental impact on my mental health. I was unable to receive any counselling until after the trial meaning it was over a year from the assault when I accessed therapy.
It felt as though the system was against me at every step of the way. I was told I was unable to meet the CPS barrister prior to the trial; I was told that the Judge would decide on the first day of the trial whether I was able to give evidence from behind a screen rather than via video link; I was not told of the defendant’s previous convictions which would have massively helped my feelings of guilt for reporting him.
Giving evidence at trial was the worst experience of my life. Having to walk past the defendant’s family to get to the witness box was intimidating. Having the defendant’s barrister use rape myths and trying to undermine everything I said made me feel as though I wasn’t believed. I felt trapped, attacked, humiliated, alone.
After the trial (I was one of the lucky few who actually saw the defendant found guilty) I was effectively abandoned by the system, having had the support of an ISVA up until the trial. After the trial I had no support at all. Despite being assured by the police on numerous occasions that after the trial they would be able to answer my questions about the investigation I was told that due to my diagnosis of PTSD they would not speak to me in case the meeting triggered my symptoms. (Ironic considering they weren’t concerned that giving evidence might trigger me!) I felt as though I had been completely used and abused.
* Stories featured on our website are to the best of our knowledge truthful and we cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies.