If, like me, you told yourself today that you made the right choice in not reporting your rapist, I am writing this for you. I am also hoping this blog will make it back to the never-ending victims of rape and sexual violence against women and girls in this country; the ones who report, the ones who don’t, the ones who have waited for this moment for decades. I want the survivors who spoke up about William Roache to know that I believe them, always have and that a verdict of not guilty does not mean the abuses they reported did not happen. It just means the British rape culture succeeded in enabling the perpetrator to get away with it, because they told themselves you couldn’t prove it. I want you to know that I believe you. I want you to know that there are many more like me who know, without due process and evidence, the mere fact that you disclosed you had been violated means you were telling the truth.
I was sexually abused by a tutor when I was 10. I was sexually abused by a person known to the family aged 15. When I was 21 I was raped by 2 men. I did not report any of these incidents. I didn’t because I knew, from the police officer who would take my statement to the CPS, the judge, the defending counsel, the upholders of rape culture would make me feel like I was asking for it. When you are already severely traumatised, your heart can’t take the possibility that they will say it was your own fault. That’s one of the first reasons we do not report. After I was raped, I scanned my body for bruises, praying that I would be marked by what had happened to me so that there was some chance they would see me as reputable. Apart from a few faint bruises on my wrists, I don’t usually bruise easily so found myself distraught that I had experienced the pain but had nothing to show for it, so of course they would think I was making it up. Why do we further victimise victims of sexual crimes like this? Instead of calling the police, I cut myself. I was upset that I had allowed the rapists to buy me drinks and that I had allowed them into my house. I felt like I should suffer for being so stupid, so vulnerable, so enticing. That is what we as a society make victims of sexual violence feel. When the legal system believes a victim’s personal choices invite actual physical and mental harm; that they are asking for it, how can we then expect them to report?
Before Roache was implicated, he made some comments to a national newspaper that shocked most decent people to the core. He said that victims (THESE ARE CHILDREN) of paedophiles were paying for their previous lives. He advised that the public should not judge but be totally forgiving of perpetrators of sexual crimes. He said this at a time when the nation was reeling from the hellish nightmare that is Savile’s legacy. People who do not molest children would never dream of saying something so horrific and so telling of a person’s nature and it is with this knowledge we all knew he was going to be next. We knew he was an abuser then. He accused young sexually active groupies of entrapping vulnerable people “on the fringes, like pop stars” Did he mean like Ian Watkins from The Lost Prophets? See, that vile specimen attempted to rape a 1 year old (amongst other things) yet despite this; he is still considered some kind of messiah to his frankly disgusting fans. It’s how I now see Deidre Barlow after she gave her statement of support in court; as if a person cannot be professional and also a sadistic child rapist.
Roache was always going to get the verdict he wanted. When it seemed things were not going his way earlier this week, the defence asked for a retrial accusing the judge of bias in his summation. These rich white men are powerful. They get the shortest of sentences despite the astounding number of victims. They feel justified in stating that things were different back then and it was just flirtatious, harmless and some people just like playing the victim. Except the law protected minors then too and everyone knew the term “jailbait”. Did they ever ask their victims whether they consented to being touched or did they just take, like the entitled males they are?
We cannot move forward until we admit we have a problem. Instead of shining the light on India for example, can we begin by acknowledging that we have a serious problem with power and control and entitlement in this country? Would it hurt to tell victims we believe them even if the system has its own definition of guilt? If we don’t, we silence many more. Today served as a reminder that the system does not work for victims but perpetrators.
I believe them. I believe them all. Solidarity with all victims of patriarchal privilege.