In the Media

The first-hand reality of trying to get justice for rape (Thred)


One of the primary purposes of the English legal system is to ensure justice is served to those who break the law, including cases involving rape and sexual assault. But for many, the justice system is failing.

After five years of trying to bury what happened to her, Ciara decided to report that she was raped.

‘It had got to the point in my story where my private, personal, professional lives were all being brought in together because of the trauma,’ says Ciara. ‘I was finding it very difficult to have any power over what had happened to me, for anybody to take me seriously.’

After what she described as the ‘traumatic experience’ of reporting her rape and the ensuing months of waiting, Ciara received a call to find out her rapist would not be charged.

‘At the time, they gave me a decision that they weren’t going to charge, and then we found more evidence in terms of messages and texts and things that I had been able to recover from an old computer,’ says Ciara. ‘I got a little bit of a false sense of hope when that happened.’

Unfortunately, Ciara’s tragic story is shared by thousands of women across England and Wales.

Last year, 67,169 rapes were recorded by the police, and by the end of the year, only 1,276 (1.9%) of these cases resulted in charges being bought. This meant that only 2 in 100 rapes recorded by the police resulted in a charge that same year, let alone a conviction.

‘The system is broken. It doesn’t work,’ says feminist attorney Dr Ann Olivarius. ‘It’s really quite a painful joke.’

Ann has been tackling sexual assault and rape cases for over four decades. She says the lack of commitment to take the issue seriously by police and wider society makes it hard to get a rape conviction.


‘They’re [women who report] going to be scrutinised, they’re going to be damned,’ says Ann. ‘Everybody’s hate politics will descend on them.

‘They will be used as examples for being a poor woman, that they’ll have to experience retaliation for having told their truth, that somehow it was their fault that they got in a situation where they allowed this to happen, that she should just let it go off of her back.’

Rather than pursuing criminal cases, Ann brings civil claims for rape and sexual assault to correct unfair situations – often by compensating.

‘We just find the criminal system doesn’t work and just retraumatises,’ says Ann. ‘We go after trying to get financial damages because that’s the currency of justice in Britain.’

The lawyer believes increasing the damages awarded in civil trials would be a powerful new route to justice for rape victims.

‘There should be serious monetary damages, and civil rape cases should be something that this country really puts forward,’ says Ann. ‘There should be resources to help bring it, and we should bring those cases.’