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  • What a rape survivor thinks of ITV's Liar

    "As women, we live in a world where we’re more likely to be raped than believed about our rapes"


    • 12 Sep 2017

    Are you watching Liar? If not, you’ve probably seen people tweeting about it. The ITV drama stars Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffud. Froggatt plays Laura, who says Gruffud’s character, Andrew, raped her after a date - a charge that he denies. The six part series is all about working out who is telling the truth.

    I was raped by my boyfriend when I was 17. I never thought about pressing charges, and the relationship continued until I was 21. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I was able to tell anyone the truth about what happened.

    Often, I offer my story when another woman confides in me about her own rape or assault. When I say “this happened to me too” I want my words to mean “This was not your fault. It could never have been your fault.” I started writing about my rape because I knew that this isn’t just about some of my friends, and some of their friends. This is affecting women everywhere, in our offices, on buses, in bars, shops, homes and hospitals.

    I’m still furious with the man who raped me. I don’t want to ruin his life, but I do want to make my experience have some meaning, and share it as widely as possible. After it had happened I felt truly alone. I never want another woman to feel as isolated as I did.

    When I wrote my book, How To Be A Grown Up, it seemed unthinkable to leave the incident out. But the publisher was understandably nervous about including it. You cannot accuse someone of perpetrating a crime - any crime - in print, if they have not been found guilty of it in a court of law. If you can’t prove what they did, it’s slander. It doesn’t matter whether he raped me, or whether he shoplifted a packet of biscuits. Legally, my accusation could be a greater crime than the one he committed against me.

    I knew that everyone who was involved in the book was on my team, and had my best interests at heart but it felt as though the world was saying, “We don’t believe you.”

    It had happened before, when I’d written about what had happened to me, and strangers tweeted me to ask why I hadn’t gone to the police. Why, if it had happened, I’d not gone out of my way to make sure my attacker didn’t hurt anyone else. I can’t answer those questions. All I can do is try to explain that it took years for me to believe in myself enough to speak out about it. We all know what we would have done, if our lives were different, if we could see into the future, if we were other people.

    This is why Liar makes me nervous. In a way, I think it’s admirable that ITV is making rape into a primetime, headline concern, and showing what it’s like to be a frightened, frustrated woman, stuck in a system where there’s nothing to go on but one person’s word against another. Yet, I’m scared that Froggat’s character will turn out to be the liar of the title, for the sake of a gripping plot twist.

    As women, we live in a world where we’re more likely to be raped than believed about our rapes. Rape Crisis England and Wales receives nearly 4000 calls a week, and the number of calls increased by 16% in the last year. It is thought that only 15% of rapes are reported, with just 5.7% cent of cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. A 2013 report by the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that instances of false allegations of rape are very rare.

    False rape accusations do happen, and they do ruin lives, but actual rape is significantly more common, and more likely to ruin the lives of women. A false accusation might make for a fascinating fictional story, but I do worry that telling that tale, and showing it to millions of people, might result in even fewer women being believed.

    It’s vital that we keep talking about rape, and for that reason, Liar is important television. And maybe, in a way, it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the series is, if it shows what women face when they report a rape. We need to understand why 85% of women like me are staying silent. We need to listen to women. We need to believe each other.

    For information or support, you can call the Rape Crisis helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm – 2.30pm, and 7pm – 9.30pm, every day of the year. In an emergency, always dial 999.