Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rachel's story

Here is my story as written by me in today's Sunday Times.

It has been a long time coming: I have carried this stuff about for 3 years.

I told my story to Marie Claire in 2004, but they laughed off suggestions that I wrote it. So I let them write it, it was important that the story of a successful rape prosecution was told, especially as fewer that 6% of rapes get convictions.

Now, finally, I have been able to tell the story in my own words. It is barely edited.
They have even put me on the front page - not just of the News Review, but the main paper.

To everyone who has ever been a victim of violence, of hate, this is dedicated to you. To all the people who have heard me, held me, comforted and supported me, this is for you. To the men and women of Kings Cross United, to D.I Dave Hanley, D.I Paul Davidson, DC Ann Brebner of the Harringey Operation Sapphire Sexual Offences Unit, this is for you. Thank you for giving me the strength to tell Rachel's Story at last


Anonymous Beth said...

You're a remarkable woman. To have been through what life has thrown at you and still remain sane and compassionate is an amazing achievement.

Obviously, we've never met, but I feel very honoured to have exchanged a couple of messages with you.


(P.S - Did the Febreeze sort out the cat pee smells before? Has Miff recovered? I meant to ask sooner but head has been up arse for most of the month!)

November 27, 2005 10:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel, I was very moved by your article in the Sunday Times.. I went out with a girl, many years ago, also called Rachel, who was raped at knife point. I'm not sure she (or I) ever came to terms with it, ever digested it, ever forgave the rapist, ever 'dealt with it'. She sort of lives with it. An emotional cul de sac.

Most normal men (which I suspect are the vast majority) find the subject very difficult to deal with - our role, deep within us, is a protector. Consequently, we just can't understand it and we hate it - profoundly. There's never an excuse or a reason. Ever.

Garri Holness, can never be forgiven for what he did (in my opinion) as he has been part of something too hideous. The man who did what he did to you - is in the same boat...

I sincerely admire your courage to write about your dreadful experiences - thank you for sharing them. The more oxygen of publicity about rape and its effect on the victims the better.

The experience of the bombing on the tube is awful in itself - when combined in the same article... it's hard to identify with what you have been through.

Good luck to you....

November 27, 2005 11:11 am  
Anonymous Alan said...

You are an inspiration to me and likely, many others. Much as the content is terrible, your article helped me to finally understand the ordeal of the tube bombings and not despair about the future. Thank you.

November 27, 2005 12:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I felt a bit like I met an old friend again by accident with your wonderful Sunday Times piece. After the July 7th bombings crawling through websites and testimonies trying to understand, as a Londoner, just a little bit what that day and those bombs were all about, I found your diary on the BBC website.

On the day of the official two (?) minutes silence, I printed out your entries and went to Buckingham Palace to look down the Mall and observe the quiet, reading your experiences. It was a powerful way for me to grieve for the attack on my home. I thought about you all in Trafalgar Sq. and wished you all well.

Reading your article today, your truly horrible past experiences and your amazingly powerful, prophetic (!?) and inspiring conclusions was a pretty different experience from usually reading the Sunday papers. I'll be spending the next week, I'm sure, re-processing your article in my mind and trying to tie myself to your conclusions.

It's not easy or natural for me/us to cleave to strangers and open ourselves to people we don't know but your words, given power by your life and recoveries, speak strongly. All the very best...

November 27, 2005 2:13 pm  
Blogger Ally said...

Thank you for coming over to comment - I have been out and bought a copy of the Sunday Times, as I felt I wanted to read the piece in print rather than online. You ARE a writer.

Although I've written about my own experience before, your question about forgiveness has given me the impetus to revisit the experience again. I refuse to be ashamed about what happened to me and I absolutely refuse to let it blight the rest of my life.

The previous commenter speaks about his girlfriend being in a kind of emotional cul-de-sac - I think that's a very eloquent description of the place many women end up after rape.

I wish you all the best.

November 27, 2005 2:32 pm  
Anonymous Felicity said...

I am so proud to have you as a friend, Rachel.

PS don't forget to answer Beth's question about the Febreeze - those of us with cats need to know!

November 27, 2005 4:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I want to thank you for sharing your story with the world. You have been through a terrible ordeal and I find your ability to clearly communicate your thoughts truly amazing. I was touched by your comment regarding the ability to forgive and move on.

Can people who commit crimes of rape ever change and return to society. The story of Garri Holness is interesting because it demonstrates that in some way the system can work. He committed a terrible crime- but went to prison – and then started a new life. He was then involved in the bombings was the darling of the media – he campaigned for all the victims- was seen as forgiving to the bombers- and the nation loved him.

However, his skeleton is out and he is hated. So where does it end for him ?..probably never. Even stranger is the ability of the government to reduce his compensation. I find this bizarre. Who decides what proportion to hold back. Is the leg of a convicted criminal somehow worth less and why? We live in a strange cruel and unforgiving world, which is made better because of people like you

November 27, 2005 4:44 pm  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Brilliant ST article.
You have a gift for explaining taste, smell, feel, sound and for helping people to begin to step into your shoes, for transmitting the sense of panic and adrenaline whilst maintaining a moderate, almost dispassionate voice. Slipping in under the defences.
I pray there are a few judges out there reading this, and a few rapists too.

November 27, 2005 4:51 pm  
Anonymous Nila said...

Dear Rachel
I read your article today in the Sunday Times. I have not been through anything as traumatic as you have during July 2002. You have been brave and also wise. I have also learnt to get to know myself better by starting at the beginning and slowly unfolding issues that are difficult to handle. I am sure you have have had some counselling and also very good one counselling too. Sometimes, all too often I think, that people forget that it is actually much much harder for one to get back on their 'feet' as it were and bravely come to terms with difficult events in their life. You seem to be a wonderful strong woman and we need more people like you on our planet. I agree, we should not impregnate ourselves with the same evil that may have once been thrown at us. That is the beauty of good and evil being (as once described by a Saint) a razor's edge of a difference. I wish you all the happiness, kindness, comfort and security from the people around you, your partner, family and friends. Nila (Trainee Solicitor).

November 27, 2005 5:28 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

Ditto what Beth said, Rachel. I also feel you are truly remarkable.

And how is Miff? Has she got over her experience with the firework?

November 27, 2005 10:21 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

Rachel, I had no idea. Of course, I wouldn't, because e've not met, but still.

A friend of mine has also been raped, and also has a similar view to you on rehabilitation and presumption of innocence. I've linked to you again, hope you don't mind, and figure you may also be interested in reading (and hopefully agreeing with) her idea for a campaign. It's on my blog and her journal.

Once again, a very well writted piece, especially given the subject matter.

November 27, 2005 10:47 pm  
Blogger Annie Mole said...

Rachel - fantastic article in The Sunday Times (I never realised before that you had been through that horrific rape) - I would never be as forgiving to your rapist though and think he deserves to be locked up for more than 15 years. I sincerely hope he gets a bad time in jail.

However, on a positive note thanks for your comments about Garri Holness in the Times too. It's terrible what double standards I have as I think it's terrible that the press have actually raked up his past when writing about the London bombings, and as you say he did his full prison sentence and is a reformed man.

Keep up with your excellent writing and fab blog.

I too am pleased we have exchanged a few emails and think you are a remarkably strong and compassionate woman - an inspiratioon to all who moan about their lot in life!

November 28, 2005 3:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous comment number two earlier....

Just as a footnote, Holness held two teenage girls at knifepoint for many hours, during which they were raped a total of 45 times by him and his gang. He was convicted and given 7 years. He served just 3. 2 years ago he was convicted of burglary and was charged under his new name - hardly a reformed character.

Before I knew this, I gave quite generously to his 'fundraising' evening a couple of weeks ago (the idea being that he would be given all the funds personally as a nest egg). I have since been able to withdraw these funds and will divert them to a rape crisis charity.

I'm glad the press did rake through his past. He courted publicity even appointing an agent. Quite what those two (now)women thought when they saw him in all the papers holding himself out to be a hero of some sort, we'll never know.

Women are generally peacemakers (thank heavens) men are rather more black and white. I'm sorry to say that there can be no absolution for Holness or the animal that attacked Rachel. They knew exactly what they were doing and as a consequence stole something from them - something more profound than just innocence.

The London bombers? Feeble minded, easily led individuals who have had their minds turned to murder justified, by them, by religious fantatisism. I can't forgive or excuse them either - it's mass murder.

I'm just pleased that the world is populated by 'Rachels' who continue to write in reasoned tones about such horror.

November 28, 2005 9:57 am  
Anonymous Nicky said...

The content of your story was harrowing, yet it was one of the most thought provoking and beautifully written articles I have ever read. I admire your strength and stability of mind, and only hope that if I was ever in such darkness, I too could reach out. As my dad always says at difficult times, "human beings are survivors".

Forgiveness is a term I find hard to come to terms with and comprehend in light of your experiences. However perhaps it is enough to simply let go and no longer let these people have a grip on our lives.

Once again, thank you for writing about such important issues from such an important perspective (and Marie Clare, eat your heart out... I've never read anything to touching in their magazine!)

November 28, 2005 10:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm rarely impressed with news articles - everything seems so fluffy and meaningless these days. But your Times article was truly amazing and one of the most inspirational pieces I have ever read. (I hope you get a book contract out of it!)The subject of forgiveness is extremely hard to get your head round, but it is also so important in helping our world move forward. Forgiving those that have done horrible things doesn’t mean that they’ve won. It means you are free of the darkness, can return to the light, find your inner peace and stay there. Well done on having such outstanding bravery to have done exactly that. And for teaching us all to believe in the basic goodness of people (even if their behavior does not reflect it.)

November 28, 2005 11:03 am  
Anonymous Charlee said...

I read your story in the Sunday Times last night and I was so moved by your amazing and shocking story. I felt compelled to find your site today and wish you all the best for the future as you are a remarkable woman, who deserves happiness.
all the best,

November 28, 2005 12:19 pm  
Anonymous Vaughan said...

Not lost for words, but unable to find the right ones. I'm speechless. Thank you for telling - and re-telling - that story, those events.

November 28, 2005 12:33 pm  
Anonymous Graham O'Mara said...

Thank you

What else can I say? As Vaughan said, what words are there? None that seem correct.

I can only wish you well

November 28, 2005 12:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an inspirational, amazing woman. Your story is so moving I've read and re-read it several times.
I wish you all the best,

November 28, 2005 1:20 pm  
Blogger Donna said...

Rachel. Thank you for telling your story in the Sunday Times. I have just finbished reading it and must tell you what a remarkable woman you are. It is a truly inspirational piece of writing and I feel very humbled by it. To have come out of, not one, but two extremely traumatic experiences is incredible To be as positive and well balanced as you are is unbelievable. I wish you the very very best. Donna X

November 28, 2005 1:40 pm  
Blogger Jean said...

I've linked to your Sunday Times article from my blog. I could hardly bear to read it, but when I put it down I was very glad I had. I can't begin to imagine what it took for you to write it. If the bad things that have happened to you have brought you close to your gift for writing, that seems a lovely thing. I hope you carry on.

November 28, 2005 2:32 pm  
Anonymous Geoff Coupe said...

Out of manure, comes a rose. Rachel, that was a magnificent piece of writing. The circumstances that powered it I wouldn't wish on anyone, but fortunately for us they have found a recording angel capable of turning dross into gold.

You write: "Resentment and anger are the breeding ground for the pitiless narcissism that I believe lies at the heart of human evil, where you choose to deaden your empathy towards others and elevate your personal beliefs over any concern for the human consequences of your actions".

While I think that resentment and anger are certainly two of the breeding grounds, I don't think that they are the only ones for that "pitiless narcissism that lies at the heart of human evil" (and I think you are spot on with that observation). Personal beliefs, in the form of blind faith, can be sufficient in themselves, as witness this awful story in the Sunday Telegraph: .

November 28, 2005 3:58 pm  
Anonymous HM said...

Hi Rachel, I read your story in The Sunday Times yesterday and was both overwhelmed by the power of your honesty and your (frankly astonishing) resilience to come back from darkness not just once, but twice.

I was raped when I was 17. It wasn't particularly violent, but it hurt. I knew the guy by sight. I now know his name. I'd had one drink that night and although clearly not drunk, I blamed it on myself for years. It was New Year's Eve. I told no one for nearly 5 years.

The tenth anniversary passed last year and I decided not to dwell on it any more. Now I have a wonderful fiance who knows what happened and who heals the damage. I'm full of happiness and for the first time in over a decade, I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve.

I don't feel anything for the man who raped me. Not fear, not pity, not forgiveness, not shame. The bit of him that lingers in me is a vacuum.

I have such incredible respect for you Rachel, not only for building a life from the wreckage that could have destroyed a lesser woman, but for sharing it with others. It helps more than you know.

November 28, 2005 4:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just wanted to say thanks for your story - it was really inspiring to read - and a bit tear jerking.

I agree with you in a way it is so much better not to hate these people - I think you have to be very strong though. I can't think of anyone who has committed rape to be a good person - but perhaps I'm just not strong enough to.

I wish you all the best

S x

November 28, 2005 6:43 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you, all of you.

I have said many times that is often the support and best wishes of strangers that holds me up. When I am constantly shown such good will - when I make myself vulnerable and find such strength and support - how can I not feel proud?
Thank you. So very much xx

(And yes, Febreeze works on cat pe. And Miff has got over the fireworks. And if you drip a little lemon oil on where the pee was, it puts cats off a re-pee. )

November 28, 2005 8:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel, I read your article in yesterday's Sunday Times and felt shocked at the inequality, unfairness and trauma you have been through, but honour you completely for being able to write openly about your horrific experiences, and I was amazed, suprised and moved afterwards to learn how strong a person you are to cope with the awful awful things that have happened to you. Not many people could still be strong after your first horrific event, let alone the second, and you set an example to follow for every victim of such sick crimes. I feel that your story will help many individuals on their way to recovery from similar instances, and once again I cannot stress how much I admire you for your strength of character and motivation to continue, what ever is thrown in your pathway. Well done!

November 28, 2005 10:51 pm  
Blogger kateyay said...

A very powerful and moving account. I really don't know what to say, other than it's an inspiration to have people like you on this planet.

I hope blogging and writing about experiences helps you in any way it can.

November 29, 2005 1:37 am  
Anonymous Dave said...


I'm writing from Galway in Ireland, where it emerged last week that less than 20% of rapes are reported, and fewer still make it to the courts. Hopefully your story will be read by many frightened women over here and will give them the strength to fight for their justice.

Your strength is monumental. I can only tip my hat in admiration. To come back from one ordeal is remarkable. To come back from two - and still have the capacity for kindness and understanding that shines so clearly from your piece in the ST - is simply inspirational.

You're a credit to the human race. And a great writer.

November 29, 2005 10:19 am  
Anonymous Jane Britcher said...

I read your article in the Sunday Times and admire you for finding the courage to confront your demons. I wish you all the best for the future.

November 29, 2005 2:19 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

(re: sunday times article)
What an amazing piece, and what an incredible woman you are.
You've expressed beautifully something that I believe passionately myself: that hate is borne of fear, that violence is borne of hate, that the more we fear strangers, the less we trust one another, the more likely we are to suffer at the hands of strangers. But it's one thing to believe this - it's another to come through what you have, and still put it into practice.
What a great writer you are, and what a compassionate, intelligent and sensible woman.
Hats off to you.

November 30, 2005 12:20 am  
Blogger cheesemeister said...

There's so many of us who have endured sexual assault. It's not that it's good that there are others who have undergone it, I'd rather that none of you ever had. But there's solace in knowledge that someone else understands.
My experiences are thus:
The first was at an age too young to have a conscious memory of the attack, but there are scars where there shouldn't be. He also did it to his daughters. He's dead now, and in hell.
The second was when I was too drunk to fight off a guy I'd made the wrong choice to hang around with. He actually came to my place the next day, trying to convince me that it was fate for us to be together!
The third was a jealous ex-boyfriend. We had broken up but I foolishly decided we could be friends. Again, the mistake of having too much to drink at a party. He got jealous of a guy who was being friendly with me. In order to prevent a fight I drove him back to my apartment, where his car was parked, even though I was way too drunk to be driving. I thought he had left and I went to bed--with all my clothes on. I woke up with my clothes off and him on top of me. He said "well, now we're back together," and got up and left.
I had severe panic attacks for months afterwards. I never pressed charges because I'd figure the cops would say I deserved it since I was drunk and let him in.
I still have trouble sleeping in a bed. I usually sleep on the couch because it feels safer by being a more confined space.
To everyone that has survived sexual assault--you aren't alone. Blessings and healing to you.

December 01, 2005 11:27 am  
Blogger Jag said...

What an incredible story.

December 03, 2005 9:58 am  
Anonymous Janey C said...

Rachel, I want to thank you for your inspirational, courageous, positive attitude towards life. I was so moved by your story and it put into perspective so many things for me. this is the first time I've ever posted anything online but I felt so strongly after reading your story that I had to express my thanks and wish you well for the future. My husband also read the story and felt the same. You are a remarkable woman and I wish you every future happiness. xxxx

December 04, 2005 11:14 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home