'Rape detectives told me I should have been more careful' - how Leeds survivor stood up to victim-blaming

As part of a series highlighting the incredibly low prosecution rates and myths surrounding rape, the YEP speaks to survivor Ella

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:27 am

"I could have turned up at his house in nothing but hooker heels and a trench coat and it still wouldn’t matter", says Ella*, who was told by a detective investigating her attack that she "should have been more careful".

She was raped by a man she had met through the dating app Bumble in November 2017.

Ella's rapist more or less admitted to the crime over text, while his accounts of the incident did not add up and evidence suggested he was a compulsive liar.

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The Crown Prosecution Service has said sexual offences are the "most complex cases" it prosecutes. Picture (posed by model): Adobe Stock Images

Yet despite a lengthy and traumatic investigation, he was never charged.

The YEP spoke to Ella back in November in a series of features investigating how safe women felt in Leeds.

Agreeing to speak again, she explained how her rapist lied and manipulated her into coming to his home, before dragging her into his bedroom and sexually attacking her.

"I have a rule where I always meet someone in a public place", she said.

Police were never able to charge Ella's rapist. Picture posed by model

"That night, he said he couldn't get into Leeds as his car had broken down, so said, 'would you mind coming over?'

"I was hesitant, but in the end I showed his picture and gave his details to my friend just to be safe.

“When I got there I realised there were lots of things he had lied about. In fact, the only thing that was true was his name."

The two sat down and watched TV as he became increasingly forward.

"Suddenly he was dragging me by my hair into the bedroom, trying to take my clothes off", she recounts.

"I just froze thinking, ‘I can either lie back and not react or run', but I didn’t know how I would get out.

“He started having sex with me. Randomly, he stopped and said, ‘I should put a condom on’. I just got off the bed and ran out. I called my friend and drove home."

Ella's rapist texted her shortly after she left, saying he was "sorry" and would "make it up" to her.

She replied writing, "I didn't want that to happen - I told you to stop", and he apologised again.

"I realised I'd managed to get him to more or less admit it in writing", she said.

Ella alerted police straight away, and what followed was a year-long investigation involving traumatic interviews, swabs and having to test for HIV.

Luckily, her results came back all clear.

"You have to be very specific in the interviews", she added. "You can’t just say, ‘he raped me’, you have to say, ‘he took his penis and put it in my vagina’. It all feels so clinical. You don’t know how to act and worry one tiny thing you say and the police will think you’re lying.

“The detective came over to my apartment the next night and said they had arrested him and taken a statement before releasing him on bail.

“The detective said, ‘if you’re going to be meeting people online, you need to be more careful - you shouldn’t be going to a man’s house’.

“I was shocked. I told him, ‘I could have turned up in nothing but hooker heels and a trench coat and it still wouldn’t matter. This is in no way my fault’.

“I had told friends where I was going, I didn’t drink any alcohol. The only person’s fault it was was his.

“It really angered me, because stuff like that only perpetuates the narrative that it is a woman’s fault if something happens to her."

Ella's rapist told detectives that the sex had been consensual, but claimed his text to say "sorry" was due to, in his words, "not being able to get it up".

She added: "None of it added up, and they obtained medical records which showed he was a known liar. He was an unreliable witness."

In October of last year, detectives told her the Crown Prosecution Service were not going to charge as it was "her word against his".

“All I could think of was, ‘this is only going to give him more confidence that he can do this again because he got away with it before.

“You can do everything you can and at the end of the day it just all comes down to one person’s word against another’s."

Ella appealed the decision not to prosecute, but was told there was not a big enough prospect of a conviction.

“The one consolation is that the allegation I made would stay on his record. That means if he does it again, and he will, it will act as more evidence against him.

“I have friends who have been raped or assaulted - it is so common. But there is still this stigma that victims are in some way responsible.

"My own father blamed me for what happened because I shouldn't have put myself in a risky situation.

“The men who go out there and attack women do so because it’s behaviour they have been taught and conditioned to think is acceptable by society. The only way to change it is by breaking the system.”

A spokeswoman for the CPS said: “Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases we prosecute and we train our prosecutors to understand victim vulnerabilities and the impact of rape, as well as consent, myths and stereotypes.

"The growing gap between the number of rapes recorded, and the number of cases going to court is a cause of concern for all of us in the criminal justice system. We consider every case referred to us by the police and the CPS will seek to charge and robustly prosecute whenever our legal test is met.

“Victims have the right to ask for a review of their case by another prosecutor, independent of the original decision-maker, and this is another way we can make sure we are fair and transparent in what we do."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "This report was thoroughly and appropriately investigated but could not progressed to a prosecution stage due to evidential difficulties."

*Name changed to protect victim's anonymity