Emily was raped and sexually assaulted by a friend, during her birthday party at home. Due to alcohol that she had consumed at her party, it would not have been possible for her to have consented to sex. Nonetheless, when her case finally reached court, almost three years after the assault, the case failed to continue past the first day because she was unable to say with certainty that she had not consented. Emily feels badly let down by the process and the individuals who were supposed to protect and advocate for her. She argues for the need for widespread reform to protect and support survivors, both during and after the justice process.

As soon as you phone the police, that’s your journey beginning. After I was raped… it was my party, and it was a sort of friend of ours who’d… I’d been put to bed and it was one of the other men that were in the house that came in checking on me, but obviously doing things at the same time. So, it was my husband that actually phoned the police because I got up, sort of trying to find him. Everything’s hazy, I can’t even remember when I found him or whatever. But I said to him, ‘have you been in, were you doing things to me?’ And he was, like, ‘no, no’. The next thing I remember, there was a police officer in my room asking me questions. So, she obviously asked, did I want to take this further? I sat and I looked out the window for what seemed like forever, and I turned to her and I said, ‘I don’t want this happening to anybody else, let’s go and do what we need to do’. 

So, I went in for my medical exam and it was a male doctor. They asked me questions … but I’m thinking, why are you asking me these silly questions? Like when was the last time I had sex with my husband, like when was the last time I’d went for a shower. All I wanted to do was brush my teeth because, obviously I’d been drinking all night. And they’re like, no, you can’t do anything, you need to just be the way you are. 

So, done that test and then they took me to the police station. And then that’s when they took my statement. When I was speaking to the police, they’d asked me what had happened, like when they came and got me, did I think that I was raped. Not once did that cross my mind. And I never said that to anybody. I just told them, I felt somebody’s fingers inside me, like movement. That’s all I felt, I only told them like what I remember. At this point, I’d been thinking about what had happened and things were coming back to me, about like sort of feelings and like hearing things. The biggest part of what happened to me was that I can tell you that he asked me if I wanted him to have sex with me, but I cannot tell you whether or not I said anything to him. I remember feeling him in my right ear, like breathing, and I could smell him. This is all coming back to me when I’m sitting and I’m speaking to the police. I didn’t know any of this like hours before.

‘In pieces (I)’. Jigsaw created from portrait of Emily taken as part of the Justice Journeys project. © Mhairi Bell-Moodie.

I can safely say that I didn’t have the capacity to even… because I remember when the CID came in and the police officer was stood in the room, she said, she’s still not in any fit state to consent to anything, like we shouldn’t even be talking to her right now because she probably won’t remember…So I had to go back multiple times to different police offices and speak to every Tom, Dick and Harry known to man.

I got a phone call a couple of weeks after it happened, from the PF, and they said that they needed me to come into the office, they had something that they want to discuss with me. That was fine. So, I went into the PF on my own. And she says to me, ‘why are you on your own, do you not want a support or anything like that?’ And I’m like, no, why, I need to do this on my own, can we just like go in and do this interview and whatever. They started going on the usual, asking questions and then that’s when she said, ‘are you okay, are you okay for me to continue?’ And I went, ‘yeah’. And she said, ‘we’ve actually found evidence that you were raped’. And I just looked at her, like there was no surprise, there was no nothing. At that point, I think I was just numb.

When I was given my court date, I had to go to the big High Court in Edinburgh. After lunch, the woman said, ‘oh, the case isn’t going ahead today, the defence have asked for access to medical records’, I think it was. So, I’m like, so what do I do now? They says, ‘oh, they’ll call you up, normally it’s maybe another three months. I didn’t get to court again for another four months’. You’ve already had like two and a half years, like, come on, what more do you need …they just draw it out. So anyway, I was essentially so drained, I’d just had my baby actually. That was a big deal that I’d even decided to have a baby. I get emotional, it’s horrible. Like the guilt that you’re moving on, you’re trying to be happy for yourself, like you’re trying to build a life after that horrible thing had happened to you. I felt guilty that I hadn’t dealt with my past before bringing this little person into the world.

So, then I got another letter citing me to Paisley Court. I’m thinking, what the F is going on now because this was supposed to be in Edinburgh. I’ve been there already and why aren’t I going back. This was a different advocate; it wasn’t the original prosecutor.. I was thinking that he’s going to come and do it because he knows about my case. No. He didn’t come and introduce himself like the original  advocate did, made me feel like I would be okay, a familiar face in the courtroom, like I’m the person that’s on your side, I’m going to be asking you the questions. I never got any of that at all from this guy. 

I was on the witness stand a long time. I think it was about maybe three and a half hours, four hours. 

These lawyers don’t understand when they’re standing badgering you, like how much they are going to affect the rest of your life, essentially. They don’t, that’s just their job. Their job is to ask questions but it’s how they ask the questions, it’s quite demoralising and demeaning, the way they talk to you. And that is hard because you’ve already been through the whole guilt stage, like this is all my fault, maybe I shouldn’t have said that, maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Should have, would I, could I. You’ve already been through all that stage and then when they take you and they speak to you the way they speak to you, you’re back to square one again. 

And I was. When I came out of court, I was done, I couldn’t sort of function, as it were. 

Once I got out of the courtroom, I just collapsed and I was in tears, floods of tears. I couldn’t think straight, I was thinking what happened, like you’re just numb. We went out and there was the advocate and like the number two person who sits with them in the court. He said ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t continue with the case’. He said it was because I couldn’t say whether or not I said yes or no, and that’s why he couldn’t take it any further because he couldn’t justify putting a man away for however long on the basis that if I didn’t know if I consented or not. 

‘In pieces (II)’. Jigsaw created from portrait of Emily taken as part of the Justice Journeys project. © Mhairi Bell-Moodie.

I was distraught, so I had a meeting with the advocate a few days later at the High Court. I asked my questions and I feel as though I still never got the answers that I wanted, it was just a day out for him. 

Literally, because there was this officer there and the advocate  turned round to her and said, ‘[the defence lawyer] won the lottery last week when he took on this case’. I said to him, ‘excuse me, this is my life’, and he went, ‘oh, I do apologise’, and then he sort of started talking about other things. I think that then, to me, cemented that this is so wrong, you have let me down royally, it is a day out for you and you have just essentially ruined my life by the decision you took. And I thought that everybody’s in each other’s pockets, they’re all friends, lawyers are.

They all know each other, they see each other every day, they fucking go to golf and all this crap. I know what they do. So, I just felt totally let down. They wouldn’t let my Advocacy Worker come in with me and what I’ve seen now is, that she should have been in with me from the very beginning because I don’t have a witness as to what he said to me. And I feel, again, as though I’ve been screwed right over. I had to go to the doctors, and he put me on medication and stuff like that, and that’s the first time in the whole process where I had to be, and it was after court. It’s not as though I had to when it happened because I was like okay. It wasn’t until after court. 

I still think about it, definitely. At times, it controls my life. It controls how I view society as a whole, or the justice system. It controls how I bring up my children, even though they’re only little. It controls the relationships I have with people, the relationship I have with my husband. Once it’s happened, like, your husband coming to give you a cuddle and you push them away. I don’t go to wee mothers and toddlers or anything. 

When I say it affects my relationships, my relationships are non-existent, I don’t have many friends. And it’s because I don’t trust anybody. 

Meeting new people is really hard because it’s like you find common ground with somebody, like, hi, how are you, how have you been doing, what do you do for work, what have you been doing, what have you done before. Well, in the last four years, I’ve not been in work because I’ve been mentally not well, because this has happened to me. You’re not going to go and tell people that. 

Nobody, I think, in the general public, realises that once that happens to you, part of you goes and it never comes back. And I have to deal with that on a daily basis, this is trauma and it’s going to be with me for the rest of my life. And I’ve come to terms with that. Yeah, it’s going to impact and it does impact, and I try and not let it because I’m strong. If anyone’s been through it and they’ve still came out the other side, they’re the strongest people in the whole world. We stand together and we make sure that we try…the laws have to change. They do.

Nobody, I think, in the general public, realises that once that happens to you, part of you goes and never comes back. If anyone’s been through it and they’ve still came out the other side, they’re the strongest people in the whole world.

Portrait of Emily taken as part of the Justice Journeys project. © Mhairi Bell-Moodie.