I wasn't allowed to take my rapist to court because I'd sent him sexts

I started going out with a childhood friend when we were both 16. We went on a lot of dates and had what I believed was a healthy sex life.  

We were fun, experimental, and on many occasions, we exchanged sexts and nude images like most teenagers do when they feel safe with a partner. 

In the beginning, it was the kind of relationship people were jealous of. When you’re not looking for red flags, obsession can easily be mistaken for love. 

He would wait for me outside my college even if I had four-hour lectures. He came into the store where I worked and ‘shopped’ for hours, while watching me – I was eventually fired for letting my boyfriend ‘come in and distract me’. 

We were good until around eight months in, when I began looking at universities far away from home. I wanted to go to art school and there weren’t many options for me within a 50-mile radius. When I told him my plans to move away, the happiness in our relationship quickly dissolved.  

The next 16 months were the worst of my life. He carefully implanted guilt in me, emotionally abusing and gaslighting me into believing I was responsible for his poor mental health.

He convinced me that I was a horrible girlfriend for considering moving away from him when I knew he couldn’t live without me. 

He began sexually assaulting me and before long, he was raping me daily. Some days, he coerced me with more words about suicide and despair. Other days, he didn’t say anything and used physical force instead.  

It’s hard to describe the heaviness of being betrayed in this way by someone you love, who was supposed to love you too. I grew up believing rapists were creepy men hiding in alleyways and lurking outside night clubs, not the boy you’ve known since you were 11, lying in the bed next to you.  

I escaped the relationship after telling my mum what he had done to me. She helped me break up with him – a deed done over the phone to avoid further violence and a swift hang-up before he could scream at me – and dedicated her time to helping me recover. 

I tried to move on by focusing on college and my part-time supermarket job, but my mental health was rapidly deteriorating. I put on weight as quickly as my grades dropped, and I worried I wouldn’t gain a place at my dream university. 

I suffered horribly from insomnia, endured daily flashbacks and dissociative episodes; a symptom of severe anxiety and trauma which involves spacing out from the environment around you and experiencing intrusive (often violent or depressing) thoughts. 

I damaged almost every friendship I had with my new-found insecurities, manic paranoia and lack of self-esteem. 

Unable to recognise myself because of my ex-boyfriend’s abuse, I decided to report him to the police. The experience was horrific. I never imagined I would have to report anyone for rape, let alone my best friend of eight years and boyfriend of two. 

I was told that if my case were to be presented in court, I’d be ‘ripped to shreds’ and that, by failing to mention any of this in the initial interview, the CPS thought I ‘looked bad’

They arrested him quickly after my initial interview, which lasted for an exhausting six hours, with me having to describe the almost-decade we’d known one another.

I felt like I was being re-assaulted with questions like ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘Did he use a condom?’ ‘Do you usually use contraception?’ ‘How would you describe his sex drive?’

Then they took our devices to evidence labs so they could collect messages and images we’d exchanged. 

Unfortunately, after a year-long battle with cold, inconsistent communication from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), my case was abruptly dismissed because of the sexual messages and imagery me and my ex had exchanged, along with texts revealing I’d been unfaithful – I had kissed someone at a house party during a brief, earlier break we both agreed to.

Though I wasn’t technically with my ex at the time, his anger in messages pointed to infidelity in the eyes of CPS and they said that this could be seen as the reason for our breakup, rather than the abuse.

I was told that if my case were to be presented in court, I’d be ‘ripped to shreds’ and that, by failing to mention any of this in the initial interview, the CPS thought I ‘looked bad’. It didn’t matter that the sexting had occurred before my ex-boyfriend’s abusive behaviour began, or that the cheating happened during it. My case was now cold. 

The tiny grasp I had left on my mental health was removed by this decision. Flashbacks and detachment became a daily occurrence, and I was soon diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder (SGAD), meaning attending lectures and work shifts felt like a strenuous task. 

The CPS’ decision left me feeling completely hopeless. I had grown up believing I had agency over my body – that consent was something an individual could give, withhold or withdraw depending on their feelings, and that the person you love would respect that. Dismissing my case over sexts defied what I knew was true about consent and its workings, but this was the final, unappealable decision. 

Four years later, I’m glad that the CPS has reviewed its attitude towards this. Working with victim support groups, they have produced new guidance that encourages their prosecutors to discount factors such as sexting, sending sexual images, clothing and the sexual activity of victims when deciding whether cases should go to court.  

This follows criticism of the CPS – rape prosecutions in England and Wales are currently at an all-time low, with only one in 70 reported cases making it to court. Convictions have also halved over the past three years, with 1,439 suspects getting a guilty verdict in 2019-20, compared to 2,991 in 2016-17.   

While I’m hopeful the new CPS guidance could bring about meaningful change for many rape victims and increase the number of offenders prosecuted, I can’t help but approach this announcement with a degree of scepticism. For thousands of victims like me, it’s too little too late. I can only hope that our stories show how important this change is. 

I have found alternative justice in rebuilding my life, finding new friendships, and rediscovering intimacy with someone I could trust. I rescued my grades at the last-minute and ended up getting a scholarship at my dream art school, and I never had to see my ex again. 

Victims of rape should not be held to pretend standards of innocence. There is no ‘perfect victim’ and CPS investigators should not look for one when dealing with real people and real rape. 

But though I’m traumatised by my experience with the CPS, I’m optimistic future victims will have a fairer experience. 

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