Letter: Rape victims do not need more torment

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The Independent Online
Sir: Earlier this year I was attacked and raped at knifepoint by an intruder in my own home. The attack lasted half an hour. I had no visible injuries, but it shattered my life. Rape is not merely enforced sex. It devastates and destroys everything of any value and meaning. It is not just a particularly nasty crime - it's a crime in a league of its own, and the law should recognise this. The police have learnt and now understand more about the true nature of rape and its aftermath. It's about time our legal system did the same.

My attacker is awaiting trial, with DNA evidence linking him to three other rapes. Until yesterday, if I had been told that he had the right to cross-examine me at length in court, regardless of any distress or suffering it caused me, I would have laughed in disbelief ("Rape victim's foul court ordeal", 23 August). Surely, this would make the law virtually an accessory to a further crime?

I've already suffered the ordeal of attending an identity parade. I knew my attacker couldn't see me, but seeing him at close quarters brought on a surge of terror and panic which almost made me faint and for which I was totally unprepared. He had his solicitor there to protect his rights and interests. I had no one.

If the law gives a defendant the right to cross-examine a victim in court, regardless of whether exercising that right is causing distress and suffering to the victim, then there is clearly something abysmally wrong with the law.

Legal experts point out that withdrawing a rape defendant's right to defend himself in court would breach a most fundamental right. What is going on here?

The point is, he has rights. The victim has none at all. Any victim of crime should have the right to be protected from further trauma and suffering, and this right should be absolutely enshrined and protected by law. The defendant may or may not be guilty. The victim most certainly is not. Both parties should have rights, and both sets of rights should be regarded as equal.

When there is a conflict of interest between the defendant's rights and those of the victim, a compromise should be sought and found. A fundamental principle appears to be missing from the British justice system if it allows a rapist to torment and intimidate his victim in a court of law.

NAME AND ADDRESS

WITHHELD

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