Content Warning: Rape.
Nothing about it is pretty.
And recently its been on my mind, especially what goes on when it happens when you aren’t in your home country.
Like many (most?) people (especially women) I know several people who have been raped and more who have been sexually assaulted – the circumstances vary, the responses even more so, but each and every one of them has dealt not only with the initial violation but also the decisions about who to tell and what steps to take. Most of the people I know talk about it very little and almost none of them have taken legal action.
But a couple of years ago some who I love dearly was working in France when she raped. She does not speak French but she chose to report the attack and undergo the interviews and medical procedures involved in that. Do not for a second stop believing that this takes a phenomenal amount of courage in any circumstance – but to face it, in the first instance, alone and without language assistance?
Eventually, there was support from colleagues, an interpreter and a lawyer and someone was called to court to answer the accusation. In France, parts of the investigation are overseen by the prosecutor/judge and they have several stages of court appearances in order to determine whether to continue with the case. The initial court appearance involved her being questioned by the judge but the rapist promptly skipped town and indeed the country and the matter was left hanging. She finished working her contract, came back to the UK and trained to be a teacher.
But a month or so ago the guy in question resurfaced in France and was arrested. Because of the laws about how long he could be detained without being brought before a judge she was given an urgent summons to re-give her evidence and the only concession to her being a different country was that she could give it by video from near Calais rather than travel to the actual town.
Again, I was impressed by the determination that led her to apply for (and get) emergency time off from her new job and travel across the country to answer gruelling questions which she had already done once before.
This 2nd court session led to the French authorities deciding that they could hold him long enough to have a 3rd session a couple of weeks later – this one where they would face each other personally across a court room.
Which again she chose to do.
The case has got no further.
After this further ordeal, the judge decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed to full trial. The victim was asked to contact the people she went out to the nightclub with (who were largely English & are now back in the UK) and ask them to send witness reports to her lawyer which may (or may not) be enough to open it again.
I was left horrified by the whole legal process. I knew it was bad, I knew it was hard. I know enough to know that actually the facts of her case mean that the odds were always against her but even with a level of vague professionalism the whole process was intensely painful even to me and I felt I had to share even though I cannot imagine what she felt.
Recently I heard it suggested that an inquisitorial system (which the French one is) might be more sensitive to women and children than the adversarial one (like UK) and I was hoping someone would explain to me in how…
I’d also like a little more clarification on why the repeated cross-examination of her statements in front of multiple court officials, different interpreters and the person who attacked her were necessary?
But most of all I still want to know how he could be so sure that he did nothing wrong?