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I recorded my rapist’s confession. It still wasn’t enough for a unanimous verdict

I recorded my rapist's confession. It still wasn't enough for a unanimous verdict

Our culture of disbelief says a man’s word will always be worth more than a woman’s, regardless of how much evidence she has.

This article contains references to rape and sexual assault.

On 25th April, news broke that a court in New York had overturned one of the rape convictions of the disgraced film mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Every survivor’s worst nightmare was now playing out in front of our eyes. Despite living on an entirely separate continent, that sinking feeling of dread when I read the news is probably universal to any survivor who has braved the criminal justice system. That system which is supposed to protect us, but so often does nothing but prioritise the needs of alleged perpetrators, leaving those who are brave enough to come forward re-traumatised and alone.

I know this all too well because I had a recording of my rapist confessing to his crimes, and still not everyone on the jury believed me. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2018, I was raped while unconscious by my best friend, Daniel McFarlane. I was a 20-year-old university student, and I’d had too much to drink. I don’t remember what happened, all I know is he was supposed to look after me. Instead, he took the opportunity to violate me. When I woke up that morning, I knew something bad had happened, but I didn’t even want to think it into existence. So, I shoved it to the back of my mind, until he did it again. This time there was no avoiding what happened, but at that stage Daniel had convinced me leaving wasn’t an option, so I remained, trapped.

I recorded my rapist's confession. It still wasn't enough for a unanimous verdict

As time went by the abuse became worse. To the outside world, Daniel who I now called my boyfriend, was the perfect gentleman, but to me he was my tormentor. One day, in the spring of 2019, I decided I needed to gather evidence just in case I ever did feel strong enough to report him. Heart racing, I hid my phone on record in my bag as I went over to his flat to confront him. I brought up the subject of him raping me and I asked him if he felt guilty. Not only did he confess to it on tape, but he also gloated that he was glad not to be in prison.

Despite the recording, and numerous other screenshots of messages in which he’d admitted what he’d done, it wasn’t until the the early summer of 2020 that I finally reported him to the police. I sat through a gruelling four-hour police interview, where I had to describe every excruciating detail of the rapes, and then tearfully tried to explain why it had taken me so long to tell anyone. I knew the police had a job to do, but it didn’t make it any less painful. Still, they thought my evidence was strong, and less than a week later he’d been arrested and charged.

I hid my phone on record in my bag. I brought up the subject of him raping me and I asked him if he felt guilty. Not only did he confess to it on tape, but he also gloated that he was glad not to be in prison.

It took two years for my case to actually go to trial, and in the meantime he was out on bail. I lived in terror; I saw his face on men that passed me in the street, I was too scared to answer my front door, and I’d regularly suffer flashbacks in public places. Worse still was the fact that despite having been suspended from the university we’d both studied at following his arrest, he’d been able to transfer to a different university and had started a whole new life.

When I finally was taken to court to give my evidence, it felt like I was being led to my own execution. I had no access to any legal advice, and had no idea what to expect. I was subjected to a barrage of insults over a two-day interrogation from the defence. I was told that Daniel was so in love with me, and really I was the abuser, I was the villain. I was accused of having narcissistic personality disorder (despite having no medical diagnosis of this), and it was implied I was promiscuous. I felt bullied and humiliated.

When the verdict was returned, it was revealed he’d been found guilty, yet this wasn’t unanimous. Some people on that jury had seen all the confessions and heard that recording, but still didn’t believe me. I’d done what I was supposed to; I’d gone to the police, I’d gathered the evidence, I stood up in court and told them what had happened, but to some of those jurors, that wasn’t enough.

It is this culture of disbelief that implicitly says a man’s word will always be worth more than a woman’s, regardless of how much evidence she has. When the Me Too movement was fully ignited in 2017 and Weinstein’s accusers spoke out, many women were criticised for not coming forward earlier. As usual, the blame was placed on the victim, not on the abuser, but how can we chastise traumatised survivors for not immediately attempting to pursue justice in a system that so rarely provides it?

The fact Weinstein even had the opportunity to appeal his conviction in the first place says a lot. Alleged perpetrators have ample access to seek redress against any perceived injustice, unlike survivors who’ve been robbed of justice. My rapist attempted to appeal against his conviction and sentence four times, including to the UK Supreme Court, yet I had no opportunity to argue that his prison sentence (which could see him only serving two and a half years) should be increased.

Ultimately, the Harvey Weinstein case is not a unique one, and neither is mine. Across the world women and girls who’ve suffered at the hands of men are chewed up and spat out by a system that doesn’t care about them. Until we fix that system and tackle the culture which enables abusers, survivors will continue to be failed.

For more information about reporting and recovering from rape and sexual abuse, you can contact Rape Crisis on 0808 500 2222.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you can find your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre here. You can also find support at your local GP, voluntary organisations such as Rape Crisis, Women's Aid, and Victim Support, and you can report it to the police (if you choose) here.