This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

My experience of using a video link to give evidence in court, by Anushka

I am a survivor of rape and sexual assault, which happened in 2008. It went to court in September 2009, and although I had been threatened by the man’s relatives several times and reported this to the police, they did nothing.

Before the trial the police told me I could give evidence from behind a screen in the courtroom. Or that I could give evidence from a different room using a video link. They didn’t ask me which I preferred, but I said I was prepared to go into court to give evidence. I was not scared of seeing my attacker, but I felt apprehensive about the trial, because I had heard about harsh questioning and humiliation in such trials of women who have been raped.

The first day of the trial while I was waiting in the witness room of the court, the SOIT officer came to speak to me and told me I should give my evidence via video link. She didn’t really explain why. I had never seen the room or the video link before, and a friend who was with me as a witness also urged me to do this.

It was not explained and I didn’t know who I would be able to see and who could see me.

When I went into the room with the video link, I watched the video statement (“ABE”) that I had done all those months earlier, then I was cross-examined via the TV screen.

The judge spoke to me at one point and explained I could have comfort breaks and the usher in the link room explained this also.

Apart from the judge, I didn’t know who was questioning me, nobody was introduced to me and no explanation was given. I couldn’t see the jury. I couldn’t hear what was being said in the courtroom, all I could hear was the defence barrister asking me questions, and sometimes she would turn away, so I could only see the back of the bench where she had been sitting.

The defence barrister’s face filled the whole screen, staring down the camera. After a question was asked, the camera did not turn to the jury so I could address them, it was kept on the barrister. It made me feel like it was just me and the defence barrister and I felt that she was putting me on the defensive, she would read from the transcript of my video statement, and I found it hard to answer her questions, she kept pointing out my ums and erms in the statement to make it look like I was unsure of what happened to me. She tore me to shreds because I could not remember what I had been wearing. She constantly accused me of lying, she told me I was damaged and unloved. She argued that I had reported him for rape out of vengeance because I was jealous that he had a partner and I could not have him for myself.

If I had been in court in person I could have I could have stared my attacker down, could have seen who was in the jury, and what their reactions were as they listened to the evidence, I could have spoken to the jury, I could have heard what was being said by all the people there, for example, whether the prosecution barrister defended me or intervened when the questions were unfair. I wanted to speak to the CPS barrister to help explain some of the things that were said about me, but I was never allowed to. They didn’t know me and could not or would not defend me in court.

I have since found out from WAR that the decision about how I was to give evidence (in court or by video link) was supposed to be left to me, after the pros and cons were explained. I never was given the information to make a decision and felt like I was conned into using the video link without knowing how it worked.

I don’t know for sure if the outcome would have been different, but the video link definitely undermined my effectiveness. If I had been in court, I could have looked at the jury. As it was, they didn’t have any human connection with me. I was just a face on a TV screen – which was just 32”. But the rapist was in court the whole time. Also, I wish I had stuck to my original plan to walk through the door of the courtroom, to stand proud and to face him, as I had done nothing wrong. I felt like I was railroaded and they shoved me away in a room somewhere like I had done something wrong.

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