We walked in silence to the court room. I, the usher, my advocate, my supporter from victim support, the detective and the SOIT Officer. They had cleared the courtroom for me. I entered sat behind a screen. It was more like a curtain. It had been agreed my ISVA could sit behind me (still some distance away). My supporter sat in the public gallery. Then the jury came in, followed by the judge. The usher poured me some water. I was asked to swear in.
From where I was, I could see the judge, the jury, the ushers, the prosecution barrister and the defence barrister. The prosecution began , asking me to confirm my name. Asking me to point myself out in photographs. Asking me to clarify some general points.
Then the defence barrister stood up. Every point she suggested I stood my ground. I reiterated what had happened. I spoke the truth. At one point I said to her, “I know what happened, I was there, you weren’t”.
She threw my claim for criminal injuries compensation in my face. I spent nearly £10,000 in counselling, I threw back. She accused me of being attention seeking. She accused me of being mad “I’m sure you believe this happened”. And then she struck a really low blow.
The abuse I had suffered for years and years had made me vulnerable. Vulnerable to further abuse. I didn’t know I could say no. I didn’t know I had a choice. As a result I was also abused by boy a few years older than me (this happened a handful of times) when I was 9 or 10 and when I was in my teens I was abused by an older boy (once).
She threw this in my face. I’m sure you were abused by someone. I’m sure you are just confused. I was devastated. I broke down completely.
In the lead up to trial I had been asked to hand in my phone. It was devastating. It felt like I was under investigation. But I had nothing to hide. Mobile phones weren’t even invented when I was abused. I was told they needed to make sure I hadn’t colluded with other witnesses. My friends and family who were giving evidence.
It felt incredibly exposing. They went through everything. Through all my emails (including work emails). I had to inform work as potentially my emails might include confidential information. I had to give passwords for every social media account I had. But I had nothing to hide.
I was left without a phone. I needed a phone for work. I needed a phone to feel safe. He was out, not on bail, no restrictions in place. And here I was without a phone. Without a means of reaching out for support. Once they had downloaded my phone, the police needed to go through the download. There were over 10,000 pages. That was just for me. A friend leant me a phone. If there was anything relating to the case on there, the phone would then be held as evidence until after the trial. They had my phone for seven months.
In my time leading up trial I reached out to friends for support. I knew I couldn’t talk about what happened, it was all about preserving the evidence. I could talk about how I was feeling throughout this process. So I did. I talked about the agonising wait, the uncertainty, the powerlessness, the pain. And with one friend I disclosed that he hadn’t been the only person that abused me. It was this message they threw at me in court.
On the lead up to trial I had flashbacks, I had memories that were almost but not quite within reach. I had the sense that something had happened without a clear beginning, middle and an end. It’s very hard to explain what these memories are like to someone who hasn’t experienced them.
When the police called to tell me they had found his ex wife I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. I was at work, and all of a sudden I was bolting for the door. I had a sense, a feeling of something happening but not a clear memory. I texted my SOIT Officer to inform her. I was clear it was a sense rather than a memory. Like the shadow of something. This message was used in court against me too.
Now, I had flashbacks, I had body memories. He was not charged with these things. When I first had consensual sex it felt familiar. I remember the weight of him on me, the breathing in my ear. He wasn’t charged with these things. He was only charged with the things I clearly remembered.
I stood my ground in court but I felt broken. The defence rested their case. The prosecution came back to clarify some on the points I had made during cross examination. And then, after about an hour, it was finished.
They cleared the courtroom again, and then I could leave. I came out. My advocate hugged me (something we later got told off for; “can you do this outside?!”). We left the courtroom. By this time the next witness was in the room near the court and so we had to walk down a long corridor and downstairs to get to the room. I sobbed, it was the longest walk and I sobbed. Trying to keep it together. My advocate was amazing. “You’ve done it. We just have to walk down here. We are nearly at the doors. We are nearly there”. She got me through those minutes. I couldn’t have done it without her.
We went into the witness room. I sobbed in my husband’s arms. It was over.
Did it go ok, I asked? We couldn’t talk about it. But they said I was amazing, and that I had been the one in control. I didn’t feel like it. I felt broken. But it was done now. All I could do was wait for the trial to be over and for the jury to made up their mind. I had done all I could do, I had dragged him to court, and he had to sit there and hear it knowing others knew what he was.