I am still processing Friday's verdict in the Ched Evans retrial. I repeatedly tell myself that justice and the law are two very different things. I repeatedly tell myself, that like the rapist Brock Turner, he was found guilty (the first time); he did do some time. This is rare for rape. This is more than happened to the man who raped me, whom the CPS chose not to prosecute. I know that a not guilty verdict does not in law mean someone is innocent. I know that the 'justice' system is stacked against the victim, that to hold 'innocence until proven guilty' means that the complainant is held a liar until proven otherwise. Our justice system is structurally unjust.
Friday's verdict was personal. In 2008 I was raped. I had been drinking. I don't remember how I got home, but I woke to find him raping me; what followed remains largely a blur, I was drifting in and out of consciousness, I know I froze, and I disassociated, that I then submitted. Working with my psychiatrist, I now know I did try to fight, and I know that I stopped when I thought I would die. Unlike 14 out of 15 women who are raped, I did report it, a month later, and I do believe the police believed me. The CPS chose not to prosecute and the reasons I have since learned that they chose not to included that I had been drinking. That stinks.
The inability to even get to court in my case has always been something I have struggled with. The justice system that I believed in, that many of my family created their living and their legacy in, let me down. My grandad's motto on his knighthood plaque, achieved for his career in law, was Justice & Peace. That phrase now feels ironic and like a broken promise.
Yet, I do think, if my case had gone to court, I would not be here to write this. I am fairly certain I would not have had the resilience to continue, and that it would have broken me. I know many women who feel empowered by the reporting process, by getting a conviction. I fear in my case, as broken as I was, that I would not have survived it.
My heart goes out to X in the Ched Evans case, and to all others like her, like me. One night of rape meant for me six years of PTSD, which to overcome I needed to access one to one counselling (twice), group therapy (twice) and psychiatric help (for 18 months). That kind of support is not available to everyone; over 10,000 people have waited over 12 months for access to mental health services for rape and sexual abuse. I recognise how extremely privileged I am to have been able to overcome PTSD and move on with my life.
I know, that like X I had had drunken sex with another man the week before. Well, not quite sex, because you see, unlike my rapist, when I told him I wasn't into it, he went to sleep on the sofa. Because that's what men who aren't rapists do. I also know, that like X, afterwards, I had lots of sex, quite violent sex, because I wanted to prove that I could be in control. I'm assuming that if my case had gone to court, perhaps all those men would've been called up as witnesses to say because I liked sex with them, there must be doubt as to whether I liked sex with him. The law is an ass.
Friday's verdict was personal. This case came to media attention in 2011/2012 when I was deep into my big PTSD-related breakdown. It touched a nerve then, and it touches a nerve now. The difference with now, is that now I am recovered, and I am building a business which helps survivors heal.
There are some very real, and very dangerously possible things that might happen as a result of Friday's verdict, foremost of which is that fewer women will feel able to report their attack. Currently, only one in 15 rapes are reported - and only about 18% of those are even prosecuted. Currently, rapists can rape with impunity which is fuelling an epidemic where one in six women in this country will be raped in their lifetime, and a woman in this country is being raped every six minutes.
But, because I cannot live in a world which has no hope, I need to look for the silver linings. And I do see them.
I see my sisters, and some of my brothers too, standing up and speaking out, and saying 'enough', saying 'I believe her', saying 'this must change.' I see a collective, worldwide, outrage at what happened in the Brock Turner trial, in what Donald Trump has said, in what happened here on Friday. I see lawyers saying, yes, the law was used as it should be, but that law shouldn't exist. I see social media being used for hate, but I also see it being used for solidarity, with the hashtags #WhyWomenDontReport, #NotOkay and #ImASurvivor adding to #IBelieveYou and #IBelieveHer. I see my sisters supporting each other, and I see men standing up and saying this isn't ok too. The times, they are changing.
I want so much to change. I want to live in a world where women will be believed, where her sexual history has no bearing on a case, where what she wore, or what she had to drink, or anything about her behaviour had any bearing, only whether she consented. I want to live in a world where women will be supported in their recovery, where the only shame is with the rapist, where she does not need to fear being exposed to more hurt if people know her truth. I want to live in a world where women can access the mental health services they need for their recovery, where they will be supported in that recovery path by friends, by family, by work, by society. I want to live in a world where boys don't grow up to think of women as objects to be conquered and understand consent beyond a yes or a no. I want to live in a world where rapists won't rape because they a) understand they are raping, and so don't do it, or b) they know if they do they'll get caught and get locked up, for a very long time.
These aren't mere dreams. I look around, and I see so many people also working for such things and I have to believe we will succeed. The support you get from your immediate community has been proven to be the most critical factor in recovery after trauma, including rape. Sometimes, that support is not yet available from even close family or friends. And so, I have created an online community which is supporting survivors, where survivors are supporting each other, women holding space for women, listening, hearing, understanding. It is a sanctuary of hope in a world of despair. Join us.
I was honoured to be asked to speak at Feminism in London's protest 'Scream in Solidarity'. I am angry, and full of rage but also I do see the possibility for a better world.
If you're a survivor and would like to find a community of people who understand you, will support you, and will hold a space for you to be whatever you need to be, then please consider joining others just like you in our free Facebook group. It's entirely confidential, secret and safe, and details on how to get access are here.
Emily Jacob is the founder of ReConnected Life, a pioneering whole body/mind/self-approach to recovery after rape; because rape isn't a sentence for a half-life and we can live beyond mere surviving, whole, free, reconnected. Link with her on Twitter, and follow the Facebook book page. If you'd like to support Emily's work to offer pro bono help to those who need it, please donate.Suggest a correction