"My biggest win is that he hasn’t been able to silence me any longer.”
A survivor of non-recent sexual abuse has described how she feels like she’s got her justice following the conclusion of a trial of issue at Chelmsford Crown Court this week.
In May 2017, Essex Police were approached by a brave victim, who after 23 years disclosed that she had been subjected to multiple sexual assaults when she was just a child.
Following a thorough investigation, David Prior 80 of Princes Avenue, Enfield was charged with three counts of sexual assault by penetration, following offences which occurred in the early 90s in Edmonton. He was working as a caretaker at a school at the time.
Due to Prior being deemed unfit to sit trial, it was decided that this case would be heard in court in the form of a ‘trial of issue’. This meant that the defendant does not give evidence, but a jury still have to decide with a yes or no verdict as to whether he has committed the acts.
On Monday, 15 February a jury decided that Prior had committed the charges raised against him.
Having my voice heard
The victim has bravely spoken out and encourages other victims, who haven’t found the strength yet, to come forward:
“I know that many people might be reading this and feel like he has had an easy ride but this is not the case and for me, I feel like he’s suffered the consequences of his actions now that the public are aware of his true colours. “I came to the police in May 2017 and I was so concerned that my report may be too historic and whether this would affect the police’s drive for justice. This certainly wasn’t the case. “I knew that I would have to relive the incidents which was extremely emotionally distressing, however it bought a sense of relief to finally be able to speak fully about what had happened to me without having to hold back. “When the decision was made to hold the court trial in this manner, I was initially disappointed however the main thing for me was having my voice heard so he could no longer hold that power over me. Whatever the result had been in court, I feel like my voice has been heard. “It’s felt empowering to feel like I’ve got the control back which I lost as a child to him. “This whole ordeal has had a huge impact on me and my family but I feel like I have got my justice, just knowing that my voice has been heard. “I would encourage any survivor of sexual abuse to report it. Yes, it can be distressing speaking about what has happened but I already feel as though my mind and body is starting to heal and every hard part of this journey has been worth it. The support you get from your ISVA and investigating officer is incredible and I have never felt alone throughout this journey. “I won’t lie and say that facing the court process is easy, but it’s there to help survivors regain control and have their voices heard and my biggest win is that he hasn’t managed to silence me any longer.”
This survivor also spoke so highly about the support she received not just from Essex Police but her Synergy Essex Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA).
“Claire, my ISVA was there every moment, even if I just needed to vent over the phone to someone. She provided both emotional support as well as clarity on any questions I had.”
Space to talk
Claire Rooney, who was the ISVA in this case said:
“My role can be wide ranging and encompasses everything from liaison with the investigating officers and offering emotional support and consistency through what can be a gruelling and lengthy process. “In this particular case, with all of its hurdles along the way, there have been many phone calls and face to face visits as various difficulties have arisen, offering the survivor a space to talk about how she was feeling and exploring her options for next steps. "This has built a strong professional relationship for her to rely on as the trial approached and I was able to sit with her in the courtroom whilst she gave her evidence, and as she waited for the verdict. “The trial of issue was definitely something different but the investigating officer, DC Nicola Blackburn kept us completely informed with what was happening. “I am aware that for the majority of survivors, reporting is not something they wish to do, but for those who do want to take that step we are here to support them. They will not be alone, we can offer support at every step along the way.”
No time limit on reporting
Detective Constable Nicola Blackburn said:
“There is no time limit on when you can report to the police and what’s happened to someone certainly doesn’t become less valid with time. "Whether you were subjected to sexual abuse 5 minutes ago or 50 years ago, we will always investigate and work tirelessly to secure justice for survivors.”
Synergy Essex provides support and guidance for survivors of sexual and sexual abuse across Essex.
The Essex Rape Crisis Partnership is formed of three organisations:
CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) who cover mid and north Essex.
SERICC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Specialist Service) who cover South and West Essex.
SOS Rape Crisis who cover Southend, Castle Point and Rochford.
Survivors can self-refer and receive emotional support, specialist sexual violence and abuse counselling and or specialist advocacy services, no matter when the sexual violence or abuse occurred. In addition to this, they also offer support to survivor’s loved ones.