Thursday, February 06, 2014

I am telling the truth about my abuser, as were the other girls who were not believed.

I had yet another conversation with a (male) workmate today about the naming of people accused of rape, This was the result of the 'Not Guilty' verdict in the recent case against the actor William Roach. My workmate was very vocal about the fact that those accused of rape should not have their names in the press. I pointed out that lots of other people accused of different crimes have their names published in the press, so why should those accused of sexual crimes be singled out and NOT have their names put out there? He, my workmate, said that he thought the idea that it would encourage other victims to come forward was stupid and that lots of people come forward to make false accusations for various reasons including money. I pointed out that false claims were really very rare and that it took a lot for rape cases to reach a court. My workmate thinks it's ridiculous that people wait years to come forward and that if they do then it's basically too late and they should have come forward at the time.


I want to put my story down in black and white to give an example of why I think it is important that rape and abuse victims feel safe and confident about coming forward years after the abuse took place. Why the release of an abuser's name really can help other people who were afraid to speak up, those who thought they might be disbelieved, or who thought that it was just too long ago to make a difference.

At Christmas my sister and I took a day off work, left our children in childcare/with their dad, and went out for a whole day of shopping, lunching and fun. We even did a bit of ice skating. As the evening drew in and on the way back to the train station we stopped off in a cafe for a piece of cake and cup of tea and my sister said 'Do you have any memories about I*** G*****'? As she said it I felt a mixture of feelings flow through my body... fear, adrenalin, release... was I really going to have to talk about this?

I*** G***** was taken to court charged with 10 counts of indecent assault and one of gross indecency against girls aged 6 - 10 over a 21 year period. I*** G***** was a prominent Solicitor who was involved in the Birmingham Six case and was a friend of my father's; I*** G***** was found not guilty on all counts.

I have no doubt at all that he was guilty and the reason is this.

 I remember an incident in the late 1970s where, during an outing with Mr G***** and his wife, I was taken to the toilet by this prominent solicitor (alone - though I was quite old enough - 8/9 - to go to the toilet on my own and to tell him when I needed to go to the toilet and in this case I had told him I didn't need to go but he insisted on taking me) and he attempted to put his hands inside my knickers, in fact he succeeded in putting his hands inside my knickers.

There we are... I have said it. For so many years I had not spoken these words to anyone, I did not ever write them down. I did not ever think that there would be any circumstances in which I would tell another person until my sister said 'Do you have any memories about Ivan G*****' and then I realised that she knew too.

What my sister can remember is that the G****** had offered to take me, my older sister and my younger brother to a theatre production of Pinoccio at the Felin Fach theatre near where we lived in West Wales. I do not remember any of these specifics, I just remember where we lived and that we had gone to a theatre - what to see or where I did not remember until my sister filled in the gaps. Apparently this was his modus operandi, befriend  families from deprived backgrounds with young children and act as a kindly grandfather figure. On this night my parents were in the bar while he and his wife took us to the performance. My sister remembers that he all of a sudden, during the performance, said I probably needed to go to the toilet. My sister attempted to interject, asking if I needed to go and telling him that I could let him know myself if I wanted to go. He insisted that I must need to and off we went. I remember being in a corridor, I remember curtains, I remember the confusion I felt about why he was taking me to the toilet when I didn't want to go and the uncertainty I felt about what he was doing when he put his fingers into my underwear. I remember there was another time, probably after this incident, where he offered to take me to the toilet on another outing in the presence of my parents and I very firmly refused. I remember that I stopped looking at him as a very kindly old family friend and very much didn't want to be alone with him.

In recent years I started using the internet to research various things and people from my past and at some point I came across reports about I*** G***** and what he had been accused of. By now he was a very elderly gentleman and as time went buy I once again put it to the back of my mind. Coincidentally both me and my sister were doing the same thing, by now G***** had died and he was celebrated in Obituaries as a man involved with justice, truth and most famously the trial and release of the Birmingham Six. When my sister asked me that question I realised that I still feel very angry about what happened and my anger grew worse as I realised how other young girls, who had come forward as adults, had been disbelieved.

All of the above is why I think it is important that those accused of sexual assault are named, why I think it helps other victims come forward and why I don't think victims who come forward many years later are doing it for fame or money or kicks.

Incidentally - after the conversation with my sister I emailed the West Midlands police and asked what I should do. Could I still report an assault once the person had died? My main motivation being that I want those other women to be believed, I don't think Ivan G***** should go to the grave with people thinking that he was blameless. The response from West midlands police was very friendly and told me to call the non emergency number and tell them the details. This was back in December 2013 and I am still plucking up the courage to do it, mainly because I question if they will actually believe me and I very anxious about having to give details like those I wrote about above to a stranger on the phone who, given some of the cases you read about, probably won't believe me anyway.

I suppose my workmate might want me to forget it happened, he is dead anyway.

I think it's also important to note that this incident was the second time in my life that I was a victim of sexual abuse or attempted abuse, a year or so earlier an older child had taken me away from my house, friends and family and attempted to abuse me in a barn. It was only because my dad came looking for me that he stopped. I didn't tell my dad. I was about 7 or 8. Isn't awful that by the age of 10 I had already faced this kind of thing twice! 

More on those who weren't believed

Similarities are striking but this doesn't mean I am bandwagon jumping.

Further reading:

Linconshire Police  recorded a third of Rape reports as 'no crime'.
Essex police officer charged with failing to properly investigate a rape claim.
Wrong Questions asked of victims.
Rape investigations 'undermined by belief that false accusations are rife'