I’ve written often about my experience of sexual violence, but I don’t often go into a lot of detail. This week, I decided that needed to change. I know the source of so much pain has been not having another survivor sharing a story like mine and I don’t want other survivors to feel as alone as I did.
It’s not about the incident itself, but everything that comes after, the after effects that you’re not expecting. The little kicks-in-the-teeth that are trivial by themselves, but all come together to fundamentally alter the way you live your life. No one talks about those.
A few weeks ago, I wrote to Olly Mann, creator of The Modern Mann podcast. TMM is a magazine podcast, and each week features an interview with someone who has a story to tell. Olly often asks listeners to put him in touch with people whose stories need to be heard, so I bit the bullet and told him mine.
Click here to listen to the episode.
As you can imagine, this episode carries a trigger warning, as I am speaking candidly about my experience of having been raped. I can assure you there are no graphic descriptions, I began the story after the incident had already happened and focused on the reporting, the trial and my PTSD. However, it is still a tough listen, and there is no shame if you don’t feel you can listen to it.
I’m aware that some people can’t engage with auditory content, so below is a transcript of the interview.
Beginning at 13’04
Olly: Now, as you know on this show, we are always keen on your suggestions for future guests and sometimes Mann fans even get in touch to suggest themselves. Well, recently, a listener called Martha Adam got in touch.
She said “Olly, you’ve asked a few times for your listeners to suggest people you can go and interview and I’ve always thought I don’t really know anyone. Then I heard the episode you made last season with the couple who’d had multiple miscarriages and that made me wonder whether my story might be of interest. I don’t have a crazy tale like the guy who donates sperm privately or the diving guy who smuggled all the drugs, but your episode about miscarriages showed there are everyday things that just aren’t talked about and should be.
I am a rape survivor. Thankfully this is an issue that is being talked about more thanks to movements like #MeToo, but we still tend to focus on the incident itself. What about what happens afterwards?”
Well, Producer Matt and I went to meet Martha a few weeks ago, and this is her story.
Martha: The thing that no one really tells you about being raped is how it actually feels. And not the act itself, but how it feels afterwards. That, for me, is the beginning because you can work really hard and you can get past the actual event itself, but afterwards is just this whole kind of black hole. You don’t know what you’re gonna feel.
The word ‘rape’, I didn’t use the word ‘rape’ for a week. Someone else did, someone who I’d told. I’d told them what had happened and they said “Martha, you’ve been raped”.
Olly: What words were you using?
Martha: I was just being really practical, ‘I said no and he didn’t stop’. I didn’t have any other word for it
Olly: How many people did you tell?
Martha: One person. He was amazing, he was saying “do you want to go to a doctor? Do you want to report it? Do you want to do any of these things?” and my whole brain was just like ‘I can’t, I don’t even, I can’t talk about this, what is happening?’ so I just swept it under the rug and kept going
Olly: So a week went by, what happened at the end of that week?
Martha: I broke down to a colleague at work. I just started crying and I said to her that I was raped and that was the first time I’d said it out loud.
Olly: Where were you?
Martha: I was working in retail at the time and so I’d said to her on the shop floor “can we go and talk?” and so we were just sitting in one of the offices. I was quite lucky in that she actually knew other people who that had happened to. I don’t even remember what we did next, I don’t remember if I went back to work, I remember nothing about that.
Then over the next couple of days she took me to the sexual health clinic to get a check. That in itself was weird, and again saying it to the doctor. This whole time you’re still…there’s a certain level of denial. You’re still thinking ‘this isn’t actually happening to me, did I get it wrong?’ That’s the main thing as well, that you are constantly in doubt that you are right, that you were actually raped, because the world is constantly telling you that you weren’t. Every time we talk about consent, every time we talk about “what is rape?” you’re constantly trying to redefine what rape is.
Olly: So these are questions likes “did you know the man? Had you been drinking?”
Martha: Yep, “did you know the man?”, “had you been drinking?”, “what were you wearing?” You hear this stuff in America, there was that senator who said “Oh well if it’s legitimate rape, the body has a way of not getting pregnant”, and just such absolute crap like that. That is what it constantly is, I can’t think of any other crime that we’re constantly debating. Because of that, when it happens to you, you are always doubting yourself. And then you are almost collecting the reasons why you know it happened to you – because deep down you know it happened to you, but it’s through people saying to me “this is what rape is” and me saying “yes that is what happened to me”
Olly: But presumably these are not questions that get asked at a sexual health clinic?
Martha: No, but the sexual health clinic was a good example where I was sitting there thinking maybe I’d got it wrong, and then I just lay down on the bed and she had barely even started before I was just completely sobbing. I’ve had normal STI tests before, none of that had ever happened to me, it’s just one of things of being like ‘ok yes, something really bad has happened to me.’
I’d had the test and was sitting outside with my colleague and she said to me “do you want to report it?” and she had asked me this before and I’d said no.
Olly: Why did you say no?
Martha: Because I felt like, again it felt too big. Like I’ve never even been in a situation where I’ve had to even go to a police station. So to go to a police station and say I was raped and have to talk to a load of strangers about this really intimate thing that’s happened to you. Then also the idea of how would I even prove it? No one else was there, so why would they believe me?
So I had said no, and then this second time she asked me. She said to me that she’d known other people who had reported it and it had helped them get their power back. That really stuck with me because that is what you feel like, you feel so powerless. And so alienated from your body as well. It’s like you’ve lost so much in that one moment. I felt like I was in my own brain and my body was just this thing that was attached to me. Because if your body can’t stop that happening in that moment, you’re like ‘well it can’t stop anything else’. I did just feel so alienated from myself, and so lost, and so powerless, so when she said that to me, I thought ‘ok, well maybe, maybe this might give me something.’
Olly: Do you remember what happened next?
Martha: We had to go into a room and then I was basically interviewed. I literally just had to start from the top and describe everything that happened and everything I remembered.
Olly: What did they offer in the way of support? Presumably they thrust a leaflet in your hand, do they?
Martha: No, there was no leaflet, my colleague –
Martha: No. What happened next was that they wanted to take me to a SARC. I can’t remember what SARC stands for but it’s basically a centre where you get all the sort of DNA swabs and everything like that. Because it had been a week, I was like ‘this is completely pointless, there’ll be nothing on me, trust me when I say I’ve showered about a hundred times’, but we went anyway. We’d had the whole interview, they said they wanted to go to a SARC, they took me and my colleague in the back of a police van, which felt really weird. I was just like ‘I feel like a criminal, I haven’t done anything and I’m in the back of a police van.’
They had mentioned that they would want to take my phone. I remember this whole conversation with my colleague being like “they’re gonna take my phone, I don’t know what to do about that. I haven’t told my parents, I haven’t told anyone else, I’m gonna need to get a new phone. Does that mean I’m going to need a new number? But I will get my old phone back.” You’re focusing on the really small things because everything else is too big, and it’s these small little disruptions to your life that are like a kick-in-the-teeth. I can’t keep my frigging phone.
Then we got to the SARC and the woman there said exactly what I thought she’d say. I felt like I was waiting for ages, and then she was like “well, there’s nothing I can take from you because it’s been a week.”
Olly: And then you’re just sent home?
Olly: Like reporting a robbery, just “we’ll keep in touch, we’ll let you know”?
Olly: Did you live alone at this point?
Martha: No, I lived in a flatshare. But they had decided they wanted to come and get any evidence from my bedroom, ‘cos it happened in my bedroom. So I’d had to text my flatmates being like “this has happened. There’s going to be policemen coming over.” The way our flat was set up, me and one other girl lived upstairs, like literally our bedrooms were opposite each other and so there was this forensic guy in my room, going through my bin. That was just crazy and I had to help him go through the bin and pull out stuff that could be relevant. My flatmate was just standing there in her bedroom doorway being like “Martha I feel sick”. I think she was home at the time.
I was signed off work for three weeks with PTSD, so I was just kind of floating round the house, not really knowing what to do with myself. The weird thing was, that I found, was actually that I needed to tell people. I think this is probably quite unusual because I know that so many people just bury it. They can’t even, they’ll go decades without ever being able to say what happened to them. For me, it was just too big, I couldn’t live in a world where people didn’t understand why I was screaming in my head. I had to tell people, I couldn’t even be around people if they didn’t understand what was happening to me. Even that, saying that out loud, is yet another thing where the little voice of doubt is like ‘well that’s weird. Rape victims don’t do that, they keep it a secret. So maybe that means it never happened to you.‘
Olly: Had he been in touch following the rape?
Martha: Yeah. He did the day after. I told him…basically…”fuck off. Don’t contact me again.”
Olly: Was the tone of his text oblivious to you having felt violated?
Martha: No, I think he recognised that something had gone wrong. He’d said “don’t let this ruin our weekend”, which is…yeah…completely outrageous
Olly: That’s why the police wanted your mobile?
Martha: Yeah. Other than that, I didn’t hear from him. The policeman came to my house and took the mobile, and talked a bit about what would happen next. I think it was in the next few days that he and another policeman came and took me to this house that they had set up near to where I was living, which is where they would do the video testimony. What they can do is they record the bulk of what your testimony would be in a court situation, so that then, in the actual courtroom, they play that, and then you just have to cross-examined / asked questions by the lawyers. You don’t have to recount it all.
One of the policemen was basically asking me the questions about what happened and getting me to describe it. That was okay, the policemen, they were both really nice, but there was one point where he asked, “how has it impacted you? How do you feel?”. I just started waffling, how do you even answer that question? My whole life felt like it was blown apart. I was in Tesco, standing in front of the biscuit aisle and didn’t know what my favourite biscuit was, and for some reason, at that moment, that was the worst possible thing. Just not knowing myself, to the fact that I didn’t even know what my favourite biscuit was! It’s just sitting there thinking ‘how have I completely lost my identity? How have I completely forgotten who I am because of this one thing that this one person has done to me? Has just blown apart my whole life.’
Olly: You keep saying “it felt too big”. That sort of implies that you feel small, compared to it.
Martha: Yes. There was one time I was supposed to be going to a friend’s house and it was literally ten-minute walk down the road. She recognised it, she said “I will come pick you up”.
Olly: It’s interesting isn’t it, because logically, you weren’t attacked in the street by someone you didn’t know. This happened in your house with someone you did know.
Olly: So you’d think, psychologically, why is that affecting you when you’re doing the thing you’ve always done, walking down the street? And you felt safe before. But it knocks your confidence.
Martha: Yeah, knocks your confidence and suddenly makes you aware that this thing can happen to you that you don’t anticipate, so then you’re hyper aware of it happening again. You’re hyperaware of it happening, or something else happening, someone else hurting you and knowing that you can’t defend yourself. Even if you try, you can’t, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. So literally, anyone at any moment could do something to you and you’d have no control. If someone was just going to come along and touch my arm when I wasn’t expecting it and I wouldn’t be able to say no and I wouldn’t have any control over it. You’re suddenly existing in the world, feeling like anyone could do anything to you at any time and you have no control.
Olly: Did you find yourself becoming less tactile with your friends and family?
Martha: Yes. It was really difficult because you’re in a situation of you desperately need to be looked after. You desperately need the care and you want to touch people, you want to be hugged and looked after. And sometimes I could and that was fine. And then sometimes I couldn’t. And the thing that no one tells you is that goes on. What I’m talking about there was happening a couple of months after, but I’m sitting here eight years later and I still sometimes get that way.
If someone touches me by surprise, like they come up from behind me or whatever, I will freak out. There’s this thing my therapist talked about. It’s the difference between the parts of your brain. There’s the part that isn’t particularly evolved that governs all of your base instincts, and the need to eat and drink and live and breathe. Then you’ve got the front part of your brain which is all about the rational side etc., the reasoning and stuff like that. She called the first one ‘the lizard brain’. The lizard brain works a lot faster, so if someone’s touching me, all the lizard brain is thinking is ‘that cannot happen again, jump away’. Sometimes I will literally flinch away several paces. It’s difficult for me to control that, the lizard brain doesn’t respond to reason. I know I’m in a safe place, even sometimes it happens at home. I know the only person here is my fiancé who is never gonna hurt me, but the lizard brain is still ‘nope! Can’t let this happen again’.
That’s a really difficult way to live. You work on it and you work on it, you do therapy, you do everything “right”, but it still happens to you. That’s the thing that no one tells you. No one tells you. We talk about what happens right after. All the really important stuff like “it isn’t your fault”, all of the kind of victim-blaming myths, we talk about that. We don’t talk about what feels like a life sentence. We talk about the perpetrator and what could happen to him. How his life could be ruined because he made this one decision. We don’t talk about what happens to the survivors. That they genuinely have to live with it for the rest of their lives.
Olly: How long did you stay living in the flat where it had happened?
Martha: I stayed there pretty much the whole time.
Olly: How was that?
Martha: It was hard. I didn’t feel like I wanted to leave because I didn’t know where else I could go. I didn’t want to leave my flatmates and have to try someone new. The frame of mind that you’re in, to try to look around, find a nice place that you want to live in, find new flatmates when you feel like at this point in time I am the worst company ever! I don’t feel like a nice person to be around. I’m terrified of new people. So for me, moving out wasn’t an option. It was either moving home or moving out and I did seriously consider moving home but it felt like giving up.
It took about 18 months before it got to court.
Olly: 18 months?
Martha: 18 months, yeah
Olly: I mean how were you feeling a year later, say?
Martha: I was really struggling. Obviously you’re back at work, you’re going about your life, but I can say with hindsight that I was just an absolute mess. I probably thought about 5 or 6 months, ‘ok, I’m doing alright, I’m getting on’. In hindsight, I can say “no actually, there was the time when you sank a bottle of wine by yourself, passed out in the bathroom and your flatmate found you.”, so no, actually I wasn’t fine.
It was around that time, that I actually got a new job. I moved away from my hometown, moved away from where it had happened, so I was effectively starting a new life. In many ways, that was great, but obviously I knew that this was coming. I knew that the case was still happening, I still was being contacted by the police who were working on it. It follows you.
Olly: Presumably the case is brought by the Crown right?
Olly: You’re not paying for that
Martha: No. It’s bought by the Crown
Olly: Presumably that means you don’t get a say over who the lawyers are
Martha: Exactly. That’s it. You are a witness. You are a witness for the Crown. Even though this thing has happened to you, and it’s impacted your life, you are a witness for the Crown. These are not your lawyers, they’re not there to protect you, they’re there to get the guilty verdict. Obviously that is a mutual goal but, like I said, there’s no protection for you.
I went to this meeting, and they talked about, did I want to be behind a screen? Did I want to be on a video link? Initially I said no
Olly: Behind a screen?
Martha: Yes, so the way a screen would work is that the judge would be able to see me, the jury would be able to see me and the lawyers would be able to see me. But the public wouldn’t be able to and the perpetrator wouldn’t be able to.
Initially, I said no, because I felt like this was me standing up for myself. Why am I gonna hide? Actually it was the solicitor who said to me “but why would you do this to yourself? Everyone who needs to see you will still be able to see you and you will be able to see them. It just means that you won’t have to see him.” Then I thought about it and thought ‘ok, that does make a bit more sense, why make it harder for myself?’
I remember the prosecution barrister being kind of flamboyant. She was quite sort of a…you could see her being an actress and I guess being a barrister there is a certain amount of acting. I remember her looking at me and saying “you’re the star of the show, this is all about you” and just thinking ‘I don’t want it to be all about me. But of course it is, there is nothing else, there’s only me.‘
Olly: It’s all dependent on your testimony
Martha: Yes. They had witnesses in terms of one of my friends was gonna be kind of a character witness for me and the colleague I’d reported it to, she was going to give testimony, but yeah. It’s all on me because no one else was there.
Olly: Was there any evidence, as such, or was it literally all on your word?
Martha: They had got some messages off the phone, I think there might have been something in forensic, but I don’t know because they didn’t tell me. They don’t really tell you. They just say, “this is all about your testimony”, they don’t really tell you what else they have.
Olly: You didn’t attend the rest of the court case, you just went for your bit?
Martha: Yes, I just went for my bit. I could have had the option to stay for the rest if I’d wanted it
Olly: Did they tell you what the chances were of getting a guilty verdict?
Olly: What was your sense?
Martha: I thought that because of the text message, where he’d been like ‘don’t let this ruin it’, I thought that meant that we might get a guilty verdict
Olly: But maybe you might not
Olly: What was it like, being cross-examined in court?
Martha: That was like a whole, brand new trauma. Because I was sitting behind a screen, the way they’d done it, it wasn’t actually a screen, it was a door. I got led a different way into the court, I got led through Judge’s Chambers. Then I’m sitting basically at the same level as the Judge, but just like behind this open door. The perpetrator was basically behind the door. So I could see the jury, could see the lawyers.
They played my video testimony first, so I had to sit there while they were playing that. I remember looking at it and thinking ‘who is this person?’ I didn’t even recognise myself. I felt really sad for the person on the screen, because she looked so small.
Olly: I suppose you’re seeing it through the jury’s eyes, weirdly, are you? You’re thinking, ‘do I trust this person? Do I believe this person?’
Olly: It’s a weird thing to ask of yourself. So then what happens next?
Martha: Then you have the cross-examination. You have the defence. The defence lawyer was a woman. I remember starting at her thinking ‘how can you do this? You’re betraying me. You’re betraying womanhood.’ I couldn’t get my head around how she could possibly defend this guy.
You know on an intellectual level that her job is to undermine your story, right? Is to make you seem like you’re lying. But you don’t understand it until it’s happening and suddenly it’s this barrage of questions.
“Did you punch him?”
“Did you kick him?”
“Did you scratch him?”
“Did you bite him?”
“So, why not?”
And I’m saying “because I thought he might kill me”
“What possible reason could he have given you to think that he would kill you?”
Because he’s raping me! But you can’t say that
Olly: What did you say?
Martha: I said “no.” Because you can only really answer yes or no, you’re trying not to come across as the like hysterical woman.
Olly: They deliberately ask you forensic questions that you can only answer yes or no to, don’t they?
Martha: Exactly, yes. And they’ll mix it round so that you’ll keep saying “no, no, no, no” and then they’ll ask you a question that you need to actually answer “yes”. I just remember sitting there, concentrating so hard on what she was saying. The fact that I don’t remember was I wearing a top? Was I not wearing a top? Which pyjama top was I wearing? Or whatever, you get this creeping sense that this is completely hopeless.
Then she’s putting it to you that actually you just had sex with him and you just regretted it. You were too afraid to tell your friends. I’m sitting there thinking ‘why would I do all of this? Do you not comprehend what is happening to me right now? I’m sitting in a room full of strangers with you asking me all these awful questions and you really think I’d do all of this just to avoid telling my friends that I had sex with a guy that didn’t go well?’
It just felt endless. She just kept coming, kept coming.
Olly: How long in reality do you think it was?
Martha: I think it was easily a couple of hours, maybe three.
Olly: Wow. Just to describe an incident that, you know, took a few minutes? How much is there to say?
Martha: Yeah. Exactly, it’s because she’s asking the questions every which way. Every possible way, every permutation. Putting to me all these different scenarios of things that weren’t true.
Then the Judge ended it early, because there was another case that had to come in. So, it was supposed to have been done in the one day, but the Judge looks at me and says “can you come back tomorrow?”
I just sort of nodded. It’s not like I had a choice. At that point I was starting to regret it, I was starting to think that this was totally not going to happen. When they ended it early, there’s a clerk who walks you through judge’s chambers. I went out to the top of this little staircase and she was waiting for me. She looked at me and goes “it’s not personal”.
It’s not personal?! I was too completely traumatised, I didn’t say anything. I just started following her. But…what a thing to say to someone who has just been ripped apart on the stand talking about them being raped! It’s the most personal thing you could even consider. I can’t get my head around why she thought that was…I don’t know if she thought that was supposed to be comforting?
Olly: Oh really? Because I can. I know what she was trying to say. I think she was trying to be reassuring, she was trying to say “look, this is a cold, legal process. It’s awful that you’re upset, but don’t take it personally”. I completely understand why you think that’s a ridiculous thing to say
Martha: It is
Olly: What can you say to someone? What she’s trying to say, I presume, is stick with this process
Martha: I don’t know. I think she probably just didn’t think. To have someone say that to me in that moment was literally the worst possible thing she could have said to me. It makes it seem like “oh it’s actually fine, you’re fine”. I’m not fine, I feel like I can barely put one foot in front of the other.
Olly: So the idea of going back the next day was…?
Martha: Horrendous. I was staying at a friend’s flat. She had been away so she said that I could stay there ‘cos I didn’t want to go back to my parents. We were just sitting there, I don’t even remember what we did that evening. Then I just had to go back the next morning.
It was horrible for me to have it dragged out in that way, but I suppose it meant that when I started again the next morning, I had a renewed sense of ‘let’s just get this done’. I think there was a point where they were showing photos of my room and I’m a bit of a messy person, so my room was a bit of a mess. Then you’re like ‘great, there’s my messy room, on a screen, in front of all these strangers. They probably think she’s super messy so she deserved to be raped’ – that’s the sort of crap that goes through your mind. I think the judge even said “presumably there isn’t normally all of this stuff”. That’s really great, you’re there to judge whether I was raped, not to judge me on my tidiness. Brilliant, thank you so much.
Then it was over and then I just left.
Olly: How do you find out what the verdict is?
Martha: The trial went on for a couple more days because I was the first person. One of my friends, who was my character witness, he actually sat in watching the guy’s testimony and told me a bit about it, which was horrible.
Olly: What was the basis of his defence?
Martha: He was basically trying to make out that I was completely nuts. Because I did Psychology at university. I think I’d shown him some stuff, like a blog that I’d written about psychology. So then he was trying to make out that it was some blog about psychopathy or something and I was basically completely mad. That was pretty much the best that he could come up with.
So I was just sitting at home and I get the call from the policeman two days later. And he said “it was guilty.”
I said, “well what was the sentence?”
I think it hadn’t happened yet but he said “the guy has no priors so it’ll be maybe, possible 2/3/4 years.” That’s what it was, it was four years. And four years means two really, and two on probation. I remember sitting there thinking ‘four years is good? But four years is crap. Maybe it’s more than I thought but it’s actually, four years? Really? This guy has just broken me.’
Olly: Presumably he gets on the Sex Offenders Register too though?
Olly: I mean that – I don’t know, I’ve never actually met someone with your experience before, but from what I’ve read and seen, that’s a reassurance isn’t it? This is less likely to happen to another woman because he’s on the Sex Offenders Register. That’s really what you’re getting.
Martha: It is, yeah, he’d be on the Sex Offenders Register for life, so that was something. But at the time, I didn’t really see it that way.
Martha: Because it was basically two years and then two years on probation, it felt like nothing. Given that I’d waited 18 months for the trial, I know how quickly that can go. That’s nothing.
Olly: I think the problem is you’re supposed to feel a resolution. Or you probably feel you’re supposed to feel a resolution
Martha: Exactly, and I didn’t.
Olly: Psychology doesn’t work like that, does it?
Martha: No, exactly. I didn’t feel like it was justice and then I felt bad, because so few women get that. So few women report it, the ones that do, so few women get to trial, and then the ones that do, they won’t be found guilty, the guy won’t be found guilty. I felt like I should feel lucky. I felt like I should feel more privileged that I’d got the verdict.
Olly: How did this experience affect your relationships? Did you meet anyone?
Martha: I actually met my now fiancé two/three months before the trial. That was another thing, I’d had to tell him. We’d barely been dating a couple of months and I had to tell him this had happened to me, number one, I would have had to tell him anyway. Then, not long after that, I then had to say, because we worked together, “I am going to disappear for four days, and this is why.” That was a lot and he’s just the best person. He’s the best person. How do you deal with that? Girl telling you two/three months that this has happened to her AND by the way she’s gonna go to trial AND who knows what is gonna happen after that, and he was amazing.
Olly: Did it affect your ability to feel close to him at first though?
Martha: Yes. It did.
Olly: What’s the coping mechanism to get round that?
Martha: Talking. You have to be able to talk about it. You have to be able to try, as much as you yourself understand you have to be able to try and communicate that to him. Because he has no idea and that’s not his fault.
Olly: When did you find out that he was due to be released?
Martha: I obviously knew, I keep the date in the back of my mind, I can’t forget it. It was coming up to the two years, would have been March so I think it was around January when I started thinking ‘shit. That’s come round really quickly.’
Olly: Were you actually worried he’d make contact with you?
Martha: I had the choice to put certain conditions on his bail and one of those was that he couldn’t contact me. We had the choice to put an exclusion zone on it, which would mean that he wouldn’t be allowed within, I don’t know, miles or however many of where I was. But because I was no longer living in the place I was living when the crime was committed, it was kind of counter-intuitive because I’d be telling him where I was living, even though he wouldn’t be able to go near me, so we didn’t do that.
Then I actually moved again. I got a new Victim Liaison Officer and one of the first things that she told me was that he, technically, had been bailed, but because he was outside of the EU, Immigration wanted to get hold of him. So it’s two separate departments.
Olly: So they wanted to deport him?
Olly: Because he committed a crime or separate?
Martha: Because he’d committed a crime. Even though he could have been out on probation, on license, Immigration kept him in prison. Obviously, in that sense, I was like ‘ok, that’s good, I guess’. But because this Immigration part of it was a whole new process for him, he was allowed to apply for bail from the Immigration Service. So it’d be the same as when he was first arrested for the crime, he was out on bail.
Immigration don’t know anything about me. In order to get bail from Immigration, he had to give them an address that he would go and live at whilst on bail. They would go and investigate that address. The main thing for them to decide whether or not it was a suitable address, was whether or not it was near vulnerable people because he was on the Sex Offenders Register. So if it was near a school, if it was near an old people’s home.
The Victim Liaison woman came over to me and she said that the address he’s given – if I was to say to you that I live in N1, the address he’d given was in N3
Olly: Two postcodes along
Martha: Yeah. You could drive, ten minutes down the road. All of the transport that I would get to go anywhere, to go to work, would have to go through that area. But, because it was a separate department, the fact that I lived there was completely irrelevant.
Olly: I mean how is that even – if she knows about it and she’s telling you about it, it doesn’t seem beyond the limits of human capability for her to pick up the phone and tell them does it?
Martha: She said that the problem is that if we were to say what my address was,
Olly: Then he knows where you live.
Martha: Then he knows where I live. I was like “can you not give it to Immigration? Why do Immigration have to tell him?” and she said they’d have to tell his lawyer. So I was in a situation where I had to either put up with knowing that he was going to be living near me, or have him know where I lived.
Olly: I’m guessing there really isn’t the support for that situation. You’ve said that there was already a disappointing lack of support relevant to your situation when you were reporting it, but this situation is one you just don’t hear about.
Martha: Yeah. I mean, God knows, I don’t know how many people it happens to, I don’t know if I’m the only one. This is just one of those additional things, you can’t even conceive of that happening
Olly: That said, I mean I get totally what you’ve said, major transport links etc. But you are talking about London, one of the biggest cities in the world. The chances of you running into him, even if he lives ten minutes down the road, are slim.
Olly: You must have been thinking that too?
Martha: No. I get what you’re saying, coz that’s the rational part of your brain, right, that’s saying that. But that’s not how you feel, that’s not how I felt. It was actually Christmas Eve when he got bailed. I was standing in my spare room, started rearranging my bookshelves because I didn’t know what to do. My fiancé came home and he hadn’t known because I hadn’t told him and I was just standing there rearranging my bookshelves saying “He’s out. He’s out.”
Olly: What did he say?
Martha: He didn’t know what to say, he just hugged me. I had a call from the local police to say “we know this has happened. This is a number you can call if you see him.” I was told about the restrictions that had been put on him. He had a curfew so he wasn’t allowed out between 9pm and 9am.
Again, you’re thinking rationally ‘yes, if I’m on a train coming home at night, then that’s great, he shouldn’t even be out of the house, so theoretically I don’t need to worry.’ Then it was just thinking ‘ok, if I’m on the tube in the day, if I’m commuting to work…’
If he was to get on the tube and see me, he would have to immediately get off, well obviously at the next station, and report it to his probation officer. And that was presented to me as “ok this is fine coz he’ll have to do this”
Olly: It’s fine, the guy that raped you is obviously gonna be charged with immense responsibility around you
Martha: Exactly. There’s no consideration to, ok if he gets on and he doesn’t see me but I see him, what does that do to me? It was a long time that he was out and that I felt like I was – I had a friend who moved to this area. It wasn’t like a tiny village, yes it’s a part of London but I just had to say “I’m so sorry, I can’t come to your house. I cannot ever come to your house and this is why.”
Olly: Did they understand why?
Martha: Yes, she understood. But it’s just how many more ways do I have to restrict my life because of what this man has done to me? There’s already certain things I don’t watch, certain things I can’t read, certain situations I can’t put myself in because of what he’s done to me, how many more ways is he going to restrict my life?
Olly: What are the things you can’t watch and read?
Martha: Well this comes on to a really important conversation about trigger warnings. So many people, all I feel like I hear is everything that’s wrong with trigger warnings, right? That it’s censorship or it’s just because people are snowflakes or whatever, and the great joke of it is that it’s not. If I know that there’s going to be a TV show that has like a really graphic rape scene, I won’t watch it. That’s just sensible, that’s just protecting myself, why would I want to watch it?
Olly: I guess the problem is, if you’re watching a really grizzly cop drama, it might not be advertised that it has a rape scene. Most cop dramas at some point will
Martha: Yes, exactly that’s the point. That’s it, that’s the thing. I don’t see why people hate trigger warnings so much. All you’d have to do is put a trigger warning on it and then I know not to watch it. It’s not censorship, because the TV show is still on. The person who created it still got to create it. It’s still out there, loads of people still get to be delighted by it, I just get to have power over my own mind.
There was a point, it was around the time he got released, that I had a nervous breakdown. I’d seen all these things, there was stuff in books, I’d read a book and suddenly it took me by surprise that there was a rape scene. There’d be a TV show and I can’t un-see them. I can’t forget them so there was a point where I had this reel of actresses being raped going round and round my head. So it wasn’t even about me being raped anymore, it was just this hyper awareness of how many women it happens to and feeling like it was everywhere. I sat on the sofa for five weeks staring into space, I couldn’t even move, I was too terrified to do anything.
And then people say we can’t have trigger warnings because it’s censorship and I’m just like, you don’t get it! The people who say that have not been raped, I would put money on it.
Olly: If you could improve things, how would you change things? Either in terms of the law or the way things are discussed
Martha: I mean, my god, the law, like much better sentencing for a start. And generally just not treating the victim like they’re guilty. Not treating the victim like they’ve done something wrong and that they need to prove themselves.
More information. I’ve never read anything like my own story and I don’t think my story is that different. Yes there are certain elements, like it is less likely that you’re gonna get a guilty verdict, the whole immigration thing, completely left-field. But the main components of it, what it feels like, how it’s going to impact your life. How to deal with relationships, how to deal with friendships, how to deal with medical appointments, how to deal with jobs, how to deal with mental health. There just isn’t that there.
Women’s charities are just so chronically underfunded that they can barely keep themselves above water and just be trying to help the victims who are at the worst end of desperately needing it. Then if you’re able to pick yourself back up, if you’re able to go on with your life, then you get nothing.
Olly: Did your attacker get deported?
Olly: Do you find yourself Googling him?
Martha: No. I did before he got released. I was Googling him, trying to find his court records because there was a moment where I’d wanted to know what he’d said about me. I couldn’t find it, what I could find was a summary of an appeal and the judge had said “He shows no remorse.” I just thought ‘Wow’.
Olly: How often do you think of him now?
Martha: Not that often. I’ve worked so hard on myself, I’ve tried to turn this into something of mine. Because that’s the thing, it happens to you. It happens to you, it’s done to you. So the only way I felt I could get through it was saying ‘Ok, I’m taking ownership of this. This is not about him anymore, this is about me. This is about how I’ve recovered, what I continue to deal with, how I can be strong from it and how I can talk about it so that other people don’t feel as alone as I felt.’