Abigail was mentally and physically abused, and raped by her partner throughout the course of a three and a half year relationship. She eventually reported what had happened to her after she was approached by police about another incident involving the perpetrator. It was only at that point that she became fully aware that the behaviour of her partner was abusive. Over the course of waiting for her case to get to court, the sexual assault charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. The other charges resulted in a verdict of not proven. She attempted to cope with her ordeal by using cinema and studying as an escape from her day-to-day reality, but the trauma nonetheless endured.

I was with him for three and a half years. The first rape happened roughly a year in. The first time it happened, I broke up with him. He said he wouldn’t do it again, then it went on. When I told him to leave, he was in tears crying. He tried getting back with me many times. He was saying he won’t do it again and all that stuff, ‘I’m sorry I did it to you’, but I’m glad I never went back. The police were great at telling me that. They were on the phone saying, they were evaluating my risk, I was high risk. And they said ‘when he says he’s going to commit suicide he’s not actually going to do it’, because for years I believed that. They said, ‘don’t trust him, don’t talk to him, don’t go back with him’, so they were really good in that way. Because they go through it all the time, they know what guys are like. 

When it’s your first boyfriend at the age of 16, your first sexual partner, you don’t know what’s normal and what isn’t. I had a gut feeling in my tummy when he would do the bad stuff, but I believed him when he told me it’s normal because I’m your boyfriend, rape is only when it’s a stranger.

He would buy me flowers after any attack. My mum wondered why he kept buying them often, was it him just being nice? They weren’t aware of the rapes at the time, but they knew something was up, because of my eating disorder, self-harm, he was quite possessive as well, so they were aware that something was wrong.

I wanted to report before, but he would make the threats that if I told anyone, or if I left him, he would do it to my friends. He knew where they all stayed too.  I just thought I’d rather it happened to me than anyone else. I’ve dealt with it daily, I can take some more. The attacks eventually felt like a routine, I knew when to expect them. The police came to my house because of the phone calls he’d made to my neighbour which involved heavy breathing and sexual threats. I basically answered their question before they asked. They were going to ask if he’s ever sexually pressured me. I told them that for a couple of years I’ve had a sick feeling in my tummy. I teared up and I explained to them what happens when we are together. Is this normal? And I went through the things that he did…would carry out sex as I slept. I’d suddenly blackout, noticing my sleeping pills running out quicker than they should. He’d be on top, I tell him to stop and he still does it saying, ‘I’ll be quick’. There were times I cried during sex and he was aware during it, I sometimes screamed in pain when he forced into anal.  

I explained to them what happens when we are together. Is this normal? And I went through the things that he did. The officers dropped their books and went, ‘that’s not normal’. They didn’t say the ‘R’ word, but as soon as one of them left my living room to go into the kitchen to ‘call the CID’ I was thinking that’s something serious. Giving a statement took four days.

At first I didn’t want to tell my parents, but they picked up on it saying ‘why is the CID coming to the house?’ ‘Are things okay?’ Then I just told them, but I feared not being believed by my parents. I was having night sweats, self-harming and purging. Quite a lot of it was down to the process and also because of the realisation of my gut instinct, getting flashbacks and realising what he was doing to me. Then I had the anxiety of ‘will I be believed? am I too late to get justice?’

When I got a phone call eight months after reporting saying there was insufficient evidence for the rapes to go to court, and that he had responded “No Comment” to every question in the interview, I broke down when I received the call. I’ve got messages of proof of him admitting, but because he didn’t directly say the word ‘rape’ in the messages it didn’t count. There’s messages of him saying, ‘I’m sorry I did that in your sleep’, ‘sorry I hurt you again, I’ll be gentle next time’. I was disappointed that didn’t count.

When I went to court for the other charges (endangerment to life, threat and domestic assault) it was quite upsetting how I couldn’t say rape because of the insufficient evidence. They were just asking me about the domestic and the controlling behaviour. I was on the stand for three hours, but I don’t feel that I got to tell my story. They would kind of stop me talking. I’d wanted to say more but I couldn’t. They would interrupt, especially the defence, he didn’t let me speak much. 

I did try dropping a hint of the rapes when they asked about events, I would finish my sentence with, ‘and the other stuff too’.  I was quite offended at the defence lawyer, who was saying ‘you were doing this for attention, it never happened’. And then I said ‘no, I’m doing this for the protection of other women’. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else, so I said that, but it was just…he called me a liar, saying ‘you’re attention seeking’.

When I was giving evidence, they used fancy words. I found some things confusing, so the amount of times I had to ask twice. I felt stupid at times asking them, ‘what does that mean?’ They would be cheeky and bring out a dictionary and say, ‘this is what it means’, and you felt a stupid, but I’m really proud of how I was in court. I wasn’t crying or scared. I cried before and after, got my tears out. I didn’t want to cry in front of him. I didn’t cry in court, just spoke. 

Before court I would listen to the Wonder Woman soundtrack, all that kind of stuff and it helped quite a lot. With my Advocacy Worker I’ve got a thing called my protective bubble. So, see because I’m into movies and I like epic music, I had a playlist where I just imagine walking past him because that kind of music makes you feel powerful. So, it’s music that would make me feel like I’m safe, so I’d often have one earphone in. When I went to court, I walked past him with X-Men playing in the background. Everyone has their own wee thing, but I like that kind of experience. I just feel power, so that was mine.

Music offered a safe, ‘protective bubble’ for Abigail, allowing her to deal with the ordeal of having to prepare for and attend court.

There’s also a wee hobby I would do, go to the cinema. I love Cineworld, I’ve got the wee card. I find being in the cinema, lights going off, you zone into it and maybe a fantasy or whatever, you’re in another world. So, going to see a movie for two hours was a relief and it’s been my escape since 2011. I even did it when I was with him. If I wanted away from him after an attack, I’d just go and see a movie and let my mind go. When I was with him, I would go say five times a week, I wanted to go more but each time I went I had to explain myself, where exactly I was and send proof I was in a screening.  When not with him and going through the legal process, I would go maybe three movies a day just to try and escape. I love the wee loyalty card, I do like that.

My Advocacy Worker definitely helped me through the court experience as well. She’s not just a counsellor. They did so much more. They bought me a new bed (my previous bed had blood from severe attacks and often triggered flashbacks), helped transform my bedroom from a crime scene to a place I love. My comfort room. I lived with my nana just because I couldn’t stay in my room, so I do thank them for that as well. I’m not frequently seeing my Advocacy Worker now, but I know she’s a call or text away if I need any help. Not just for sexual violence, she’s also helped with work issues such as witnessing my first rail fatality.

For Abigail, the cinema provided a means of escape, both during her abuse, and throughout her interactions with the criminal justice process.

In the end, I didn’t get justice. There was insufficient evidence. My neighbour, she got justice for ‘two phone calls’. As for everyone else, another woman got pinned against the wall, sexually assaulted, she didn’t get any justice either. I then lost my bail protection, so I’ve had him getting in contact recently. I’ve blocked him on all platforms but I still get private numbers and added on social media platforms (but using a fake name). If you’ve been a victim you should get the support after, not just the end of court. Because, like I say, things are actually worse after court. If someone was thinking about reporting I would tell them the truth, that’s it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, you aren’t treated like a victim. It’s very difficult. You’re not treated like the victim at all. 

Due to the treatment and failure of the justice system. I didn’t report another unfortunate rape that happened. This was two weeks after the call from CID saying rape charges are dropped. I was emotional, drank heavy amounts of alcohol alongside sleeping pills which resulted in a date rape from a stranger. I told my mum of this attack recently (four years later). Thankfully she believed me and she completely understands why I didn’t report or tell anyone.

I’m proud of many things that I managed to do though. College was challenging at times. I wouldn’t sleep at night because of flashbacks and stress and worries, relapses, so I’d be late to class, but I’d say it’s made me stronger. I got student of the year at college because of the circumstances.

I have since changed career paths and since participating in the Justice Journeys project I have done so many things. I got my first car! I am workings a hospitality steward and planning to complete the train driver exams. I have two cute cats that are my medicine when relapses happen. I got my first house, and went on my first holiday to Orlando. Although I didn’t get closure with the charges, I did receive good news in April 2017. I cried with happiness, I had applied for criminal injuries compensation and they believed me. They took my statement and stuff and they said we’re awarding you compensation for three years of non-consensual penetration, so it’s not a good reason to reflect but it’s closure. I had to question myself since court. I was back to believing his words that I didn’t count in the relationship, that it wasn’t rape. I was thinking all that in my head, and then I got that letter through and it was closure. I’m still disappointed in the justice system, but I still feel believed at the same time, so I’m glad I’ve got that closure and these wee awards and achievements are boosts. 

However, I do still fear my attacker daily, when I’m in his town or driving around the area. Then recently found out he’s working near my work. I don’t want my colleagues knowing or seeing me freeze! But I hope to be strong and smile back at him, don’t show fear. People hate it when you’re happy and they don’t like you. I’m showing I’m just not scared of him. I did manage it once, but I wasn’t by myself. Me and my boyfriend walked past, and we were walking along the beach, so I clenched my boyfriend’s hand. I said, ‘there he is’. But I’m realising he’s a bit of a shite bag. We walked past him then he said his comment, ‘keep walking, bitch’.

My friends and family keep track of him. I was told that he’s known for another violent offence, I badly want to scream ‘he’s a rapist too!’ In his last job, he sexually assaulted one of the women at work and he didn’t realise who her man was. He still lives with his parents, no access to his kid and people hate him. So, in a way, karma is doing the trick. My life is going great compared to his. However, the disappointing part is that he’s not on the sex offender’s register.

I’m proud of many things that I managed to do though. College was challenging at times. I wouldn’t sleep at night because of flashbacks and stress and worries, relapses, so I’d be late to class, but I’d say it’s made me stronger. I got student of the year at college because of the circumstances.

The music that Abigail played in headphones worked to help her feel safe, and gave her a sense of invincibility. She drew a great deal of strength from that feeling and has since gone on to seek it out in other aspects of her life.