My experience with the criminal justice system was more traumatic than the assault – and I’m not alone

Vera Baird QC, the newly appointed victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, has been making headlines for her support of a civil liberties campaign which argues that rape case phone search requests amount to an “illegal digital strip search”. Police and prosecutors have warned that, in some cases, if victims do not allow the contents of their phones to be downloaded, their investigations may be abandoned. Just 1.5% of rape cases lead to a charge or summons.

Today, the London rape review has said more must be done to end the excessive intrusion into personal data through the criminal justice service in rape cases. I reported my own sexual assault to the police with the intention of stopping a dangerous and sadistic predator from ever hurting another woman again. As part of my healing process I needed to take power back, but I ended up feeling more powerless after a two-and-a-half-year investigation that I can only describe as torture. The crown would make requests for deeply personal information, such as counselling notes, with the ultimatum that if I refused they wouldn’t pursue my case any more. This caused panic attacks and crippling anxiety, and my previously successful career began to suffer. Eventually my case was dropped because I refused to give the government access to the entire contents of my mobile phone. Many victims talk about their experiences with the criminal justice system being more traumatic than the assault itself. I share those sentiments because I was left feeling I could be raped with impunity.

Related: Only 3% of rape claims in London result in convictions, study says

Mistakes can be made, but it does not mean we should stop prosecuting crime or do away with the right to privacy

Related: Rape victims deserve more support every step of their way to court | Barbara Ellen

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