Ms L wins £11,000 at Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority appeal

A rape survivor who was unable to give a full statement to the police applied for compensation three years later, fought an initial refusal – and won!

Ms L was attacked in May 2001, by a stranger. She has no memory from the middle of the day to the next morning, so she can only assume she was drugged or she was drunk, although it was unlike any previous experience of being drunk. The next morning she woke up in the stranger’s bed, and was then raped. Her memories of the rape are fractured, but she knows he threatened her life, and held her by the throat, while he raped her anally and vaginally. She had extensive bruising across the back and chest.

She did not go directly to the police, as she was in shock. Five days later, she had been drinking heavily and was found wandering in the street crying and screaming, and taken to a police station. She had previously been raped in 1996, and had been struggling with alcoholism since then.

She told the police about the rape and was given a forensic examination. She was asked to come back to make a full signed statement, but she was unable to do this as her alcoholism and mental health got worse. She ended up in a mental health ward, having a breakdown.

She later got help while in temporary housing. She disclosed the violence she had suffered to a key worker there, who referred her to Women’s and Girl’s Network where she was given counselling.

Three years after the 2001 rape Ms L was assaulted in a park by a boy who stole her mobile phone, and it triggered traumatic memories of the rape. A passer-by called the police, who attended the scene, and she reported the assault.

Being a victim of crime yet again, she was spurred on to go back to the police station where she had reported the rape and ask about the results of the forensic examination. They had done no tests on the swabs and destroyed the evidence after three months. She then applied for compensation.

She received compensation for the injuries to her mental health from the park attack but it was halved due to pre-existing mental health problems.

Compensation for her 2001 rape was turned down because of lack of evidence. Ms L repeatedly called CICA to question why they hadn’t obtained her medical records and eventually went to get them herself. She appealed the refusal.

The CICA review upheld the refusal stating lack of evidence and adding that she hadn’t made a full detailed statement about the rape. She appealed again and was given a CICAP (Appeal) hearing in June 2008.

She had obtained her medical file from her Psychiatric Outpatient Unit and a letter from her counsellor. Both of these demonstrated the impact of the second rape on Ms L’s mental health and noted consistency in her disclosures.

She got advice from Women Against Rape and took a friend to witness the hearing and support her as she gave evidence.

Before a panel of two men and a woman Ms L argued her case. She was surprised none of them was a mental health specialist and found the woman panellist particularly hostile. She asked Ms L about her alcohol and drug history and who she had been socialising with. Ms L was angered by their prejudice and told them that her history of drugs and alcohol was irrelevant to her claim: ‘I could have been lying in the park, naked, dead drunk with my legs spread and it doesn’t mean a man has the right to rape me.’ At the hearing she discovered that the police had written notes from her forensic examination recording that she was covered in bruises.

After deliberating for ten minutes the panel stated ‘We believe you,’ and awarded her £11,000, the full tariff for rape.

Ms L says: ‘I feel 10 tonnes lighter and I can finally get on with my life. I want to tell other people to keep fighting their corner.’

WAR comments: ‘It is high time all rape survivors stopped being blamed for the ill-health and other injuries we suffer as a result of this traumatic crime. This award shows that women’s determination can succeed in getting the compensation authority to decide on the basis of evidence rather than sexist prejudice. Ms L’s award follows another victory by a woman who threatened to bring a judicial review for sex discrimination against a CICA decision to cut her award because she had been drinking. The CICA has acknowledged this decision was wrong, but dozens of other women also lost out. Why should each woman have to apply individually, when this entails further delay and a legal action that is beyond the resources of most applicants? Everyone the CICA has wronged must have their full award automatically restored.’