Heart racing, I hit the record button on my phone, stowing it in my bag before steadying my voice.
‘Do you not get how awful it makes me feel when you say “I haven’t raped you” when you have?’ I asked.
‘Ellie,’ came the cold response. ‘We’ve already established that I have… but the people that need to believe me, believe me’.
I’d done it, I’d captured my rapist confessing on tape.
This recording, alongside screenshots of messages where he’d admitted to his actions, would surely be enough to dispel all doubt as to whether he was guilty, I thought.
I was wrong.
While my rapist, Daniel McFarlane, was eventually sentenced to five years for two counts of rape against me back in June 2022, the verdict wasn’t unanimous.
There were members of that jury who sat there and listened to the recording, saw the messages, heard the testimony, and still didn’t believe he was guilty.
If I had all that and still wasn’t believed, what hope is there for anyone else?
The whole duration of the trial I contemplated suicide. I lost my period due to the stress and had to stop working. It was hell
In the wake of the allegations of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse against Russell Brand from four women – which he denies – many people have been asking why these women didn’t simply report their complaints immediately to the police.
Having gone through the criminal justice system from start to finish myself, I understand why they may have chosen not to.
I met my rapist while I was a politics student at the University of Glasgow. He was studying medicine and wanted to be a doctor – we bonded over our mutual love of athletics.
He very quickly became my best friend, and eventually my boyfriend.
Behind his respectable façade lay a monster, though. He first raped me on New Year’s Eve 2017, while we were still just friends. I’d had too much to drink and passed out.
He was supposed to be looking after me, but instead he took it as an opportunity to violate me.
The next morning, I felt like something bad had happened – but I almost didn’t want to make it real by dwelling on it or asking any questions. My mental health was fragile; I felt lonely and isolated, and I didn’t want to lose my best friend.
I was abused for another two years before I was finally able to cut off contact with him. When I’d tried to leave him before, he stalked me and threatened suicide. I was trapped.
Going into lockdown from March 2020 provided me with a silver lining: space. I blocked him on all social media and had the time and distance to start making sense of things.
I realised I’d been abused, and that I needed justice. Not just for myself, but to keep others safe.
That June, I reported him to the police. I underwent a gruelling four hour interview and handed over my phone as evidence. I’m yet to receive that phone back.
Fortunately, the police took it seriously and acted swiftly, with my rapist being arrested and charged about a week later.
It was after the case was taken out of the police’s hands and the prosecution took over that my real problems started.
I had a two year wait until the trial, during which my rapist was out on bail and able to start a whole new life while I lived in fear. I was given virtually no information about the case and walked into court with no idea of what to expect.
I was torn to shreds on that stand.
I was told by the defence that the abuse happened because he loved me so much. That I was the one with the power. That I’m manipulative. That I have a narcissistic personality disorder. I was asked about what I was wearing and my relationships with other men. I felt humiliated.
The whole duration of the trial I contemplated suicide. I lost my period due to the stress and had to stop working. It was hell.
My experience of the criminal justice system is not a unique one. Time and time again survivors of sexual violence tell us that the court process is re-traumatising and violating. And those are the women whose cases even make it that far.
The sad reality is that most rapists don’t see the inside of a courtroom. Most don’t even see a police interview room. Most rapists face zero consequences for their actions.
So, why didn’t Russell Brand’s alleged victims go straight to the police? In my view, it’s because the system is rigged against them – and that’s before we even factor in wealth, influence and power.
Instead of continually asking women why they didn’t behave in the way we believe perfect victims should, we need to ask: how can we change our society and institutions so that more women feel supported in coming forward?
The root of the problem isn’t Russell Brand, nor is it individual rapists, but a culture that condones and wilfully overlooks misogyny and sexual violence – and a justice system that too often fails to deliver justice.
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