A mother who was raped by her estranged husband as she cuddled her four-year-old daughter in bed has spoken out against the culture of ‘victim-blaming’ in sexual abuse cases.
The 40 year old, who says she would have waived her right to anonymity if it weren’t for the fear of identifying her children, believes rape is rape – no matter who the perpetrator.
The victim has waited a number of months since the sentencing of the father of her three children – who raped her in what was their marital home in Hemel Hempstead back in 2011 – to talk openly about the traumatic ordeal.
The mother had also refrained from reporting the vile attack straight away because she thought she would not be believed, and because her priority at the time was finding a safe home for herself and the children.
Her attacker – whom she was separated from at the time – was jailed for six years and labelled a ‘bully who sought to dominate his ex-wife’ by the judge who sentenced him in February of this year.
However, the victim says she feels no shame and wants to help others who may find themselves in the same terrifying position.
Speaking of the fateful night, she said: “In everyday language, we say things like, ‘I thought they were going to kill me’ – we band those kinds of words around.
“But when you genuinely fear that someone is going to kill you, all you can think is, ‘this is it’.
“All I could focus on was that it needed to happen quietly so that my daughter would not wake up or see this.
“I have never felt such deep, intense, overwhelming fear, and it has left me deeply scarred.”
She said she experienced two ‘switch moments’ during the long-term period of abuse – the first to leave her husband, and the second which led her to seek justice against him following the sickening attack more than three years ago.
Speaking to other victims of domestic or sexual abuse, she said: “That decision has to come from within. You need to believe that you can do it.
“There is support available through lots of agencies for women and the support I received was incredibly empowering.
“For me the criminal process became the way forward as a platform to have my say and have justice for the terrible things he did that night.”
While the woman cites the Womens Aid, Refuge, Rape Crisis and Everyday Victim Blaming charities as helping her through her tribulation, she believes there is still a problem in the way rape and sexual abuse victims are viewed by the masses.
She said: “In cases of sexual violence and rape, the victim – woman or child – can never, ever be accountable or responsible.
“Rape is rape. Rapists are generally men and they are the men that we work with, go to the gym with, go to the pub with.
“They are not monsters lurking in alleyways, and the judge was very clear in his sentencing remarks in my case about that.”
An investigation into the reporting of rape crimes across the country, published earlier this year, found that Herts police was among the highest forces in terms of rape allegations later classed as ‘no crime’ – when additional verifiable information determines no crime has been committed – with a rate of 21 per cent as opposed to an average of 12 per cent across England and Wales.
At the time, the figures were commented on by Dru Sharpling, chair of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s rape monitoring group, who said they could reflect a ‘culture of disbelief’ in the forces.
While the Herts force was one of the first in the country to set up a unit specifically dedicated to investigating rape and sexual assault, a police spokesman said it needed to better encourage and reassure victims of rape to come forward.
While this victm said the liaison officer she was assigned was very supportive, she still believes that people like herself who have been raped are generally not seen in the same way as those who have been affected by other crimes.
She said: “People don’t believe. If I said my house had been burgled, no-one would doubt me. They would believe me and be sympathetic, but that’s not the same idea people have when you say you were raped.
“Some people still excuse the behaviour or refuse to look at the facts and believe it.
“Just because he seems like a nice guy to you, it does not mean he is not capable of rape. That is an incredibly important message.”
The mother has now moved to a new home and is rebuilding her life with her children, though she revealed they are still dealing with the lasting emotional effects of their ordeal.
If you are a victim of domestic or sexual abuse and wish to seek help, visit womensaid.org.uk, refuge.org.uk, rapecrisis.org.uk or everydayvictimblaming.com, or hertssunflower.org where further support and contact details are signposted.