Brutally raped, then I was made to say thank you

Debbie was beaten and abused but her attackers went free.
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"DEBBIE" WAS raped by a man she met on a night out and dated a couple of times.

Three weeks after she ended the relationship, the man and an accomplice forced their way into her home, beat, raped and abused her at knife-point.

Apparently a watertight case. But Debbie's ordeal, as with an increasing number of date rapes, ended in acquittal for the suspects and humiliation for the victim.

"I was in my local pub with my friends when he came over and chatted me up. I met up with him twice afterwards and we had sex on both occasions, but I didn't contact him again because he became aggressive and frightened me.

"Three weeks later I was woken up on Sunday morning by him shouting and threatening me on the intercom. He said he would kick down the door and kill me if I didn't see him. I was petrified.

"I eventually went downstairs and he was furious. He smelt of alcohol and was doped up. He had a friend with him who looked a bit scared.

"I had been in care and the house was a halfway place before living on my own. It was empty - there were normally up to three girls staying there - and he pushed me into the kitchen.

"At first he just said he wanted to have sex with me. He then got a knife out and held it to my throat and ran it over my face.

"He grabbed my hair and started punching me in the face and then dragged me upstairs to my bedroom where both the men raped me. They dragged me up and down the stairs and raped me several times. They also forced me to have oral sex and buggered me. All the time he was punching and hitting me.

"When he finished he said he knew where my mum and dad lived and would kill them if I went to the police.

"He then asked me to thank him and kiss him on the cheek. When I refused he hit me in the face and stomach and between my legs. I had to kiss him and say thank you."

After the men left, Debbie called her social worker and cousin and went to the police.

"All the police were very supportive and sympathetic, except for the police surgeon who was spiteful.

"She gave me a morning-after pill without saying what it was and gave me a rough internal examination. She only became sympathetic when she found several broken condoms crammed inside of me.

"When I walked through with the CID officer everyone stood up. I felt people believed me. My only complaints were that they didn't fit a panic button at my house when they promised and they couldn't protect me from the rapist's friends and family: they would sit outside my flat and threaten me."

The two men were quickly charged with rape and the case went to the Crown Court.

"No one told me what to do or expect at court. I had never spoken to my barrister and had to ask someone who was on my side in court. He kept having to look at his notes to remember my name.

"Their side argued that I had consented and tried to say I was promiscuous. They said the injuries were less than half an inch deep so they could have been caused during rough sex.

"I had to stand in the witness box for eleven and a half hours over four days and was cross-examined by three different barristers. I was so scared I wet myself at one point in the court.

"I had to pass the men's family and friends in the court every day. I could see the two men who kept making gestures to me, there were no screens and no one did anything about them. I was surprised that everyone was so near.

"I know it's a cliche, but it did feel like being raped again. I had to go through every detail. They also asked me whether I ever had abortions, why had I been at a home, was I abused as a child, whether I dreamed about having sex with more than one man.

"They wanted to know what position I liked to have sex, whether I liked it from behind and why wasn't I wearing any knickers - I kept telling them it was eight in the morning and I had just got up. They made a really big issue about the fact I was not wearing any underwear. They even wanted to know in what tone of voice did I scream `no'.

"They made me feel it was all my fault. It was so intimidating. All those men with wigs - it was a bloody circus," she said.

The jury found the two men not guilty of rape. They admitted a charge of buggery, but the judge let them go free after ruling that the eight months they had been locked up awaiting the trial was penalty enough.

Several years later Debbie is still suffering abuse from the friends and family of the two men.

"I get called names like slag and spat at. I don't want to go out after 8pm. But, I'm going to college now and I'm happy most of the time. I still wake up at 8am every year on the day I was raped feeling nervous.

"I have brothers and I would hate them to be accused of something they did not do, but there must be a way of having a fairer trial. There must be a better system."

Debbie is not the woman's real name.