Sexual assault on campus: A student's story

As students go back to university this month, some of Scotland's universities have launched new initiatives to combat sexual assault on campus. Experts say that sexual violence is a growing, but largely hidden, problem, which is particularly prominent among young people between the ages of 17 and 25.

BBC Scotland News spoke to a woman who was raped when she was a student about her experience. The case went to trial but the accused was found not guilty. She says the attack has had a devastating effect on her life. The woman asked to remain anonymous.

"I went on a night out with my friends and their flatmates. The more I think about it now, I think I might have had my drink spiked or something similar. I'm not sure.

"I went home with someone, and I don't remember really agreeing to it... I remember not really knowing who he was. My mind kept jumping to being in a taxi with him then being at his house. There's no in-between in my memory.

"And then I found myself being strangled and raped, basically. It was a very, very, scary experience. I thought I couldn't breathe.

"I remember running out of the place. I ran into some workers who helped me get back to the friends who I was out with.

'I'd been raped'

"I didn't even want to phone the police. I didn't realise what had happened to me. It was my best friend at the time who really pushed me to report it. He was the one who dialled the number and calmed me down.

"He told me I'd been raped. I didn't want to believe it at first - I didn't want it to be real. From then on, it was just a blur of police officers getting statements and rape kits and stuff like that.

"It was around four in the morning by this point. The officers that were in charge of these kinds of things weren't on duty yet, so it was police officers that took care of me.

"It was quite scary just being in the police station. Then we had to go to the guy's flat that it happened at to confirm that's where I was raped. I stayed in the police car - it was very traumatic.

"So was the rape kit. I remember lying there, shaking and crying. I hadn't had much sleep. I got to go and have a shower before going back in to the police station for more questioning and to make a witness statement.

'So unjust'

"I was up for nearly two days by the time everything had blown over and I was able to go home and understand what had happened to me. I understand now that there's nothing I can do to change it. I went through a long period of being very, very angry.

"I'm not at peace with it, now all I can do is use my experiences to help other people and prevent it from happening in the future if I can.

"I decided to go through with it because the thought of him getting away with it sparked so much anger.

"Once I realised what had happened I did not want to let it go. It was so unjust. I didn't want to wonder down the line, what if I had reported it? It was something that I couldn't really live with if I hadn't reported it. I felt like I had to at least try, otherwise I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it.

"It took nearly two years before anything came of it. I found the trial terrifying - extremely intimidating. I felt like I was on trial, like I was being judged by the jury.

'Felt alone'

"I was made to feel like I deserved this in some way or let it happen, or I was just making it up. That was something the defence lawyer said to me right off the bat - he accused me of making it all up. That was really hard to take.

"I remember bursting into tears, but I kept going because I just wanted it to be over. It was really difficult.

"I later understood that everyone in the courtroom that wasn't the jury and the defence lawyers believed me, in a sense, because the case doesn't make it through to that late a stage unless they think it can result in a conviction.

"Being made out to be a liar was awful. It took me a long time to get over that - it's up there with the night I was raped.

"Although I received plenty of support when I was at university, I didn't see anybody in a similar circumstance - I felt quite alone. I want people to understand the impact it has on survivors. I want people to see that it's not just a one night thing or whatever - it has a lasting effect on the person for the rest of their life and affects all aspects of life.

"I also want people who are survivors of rape - men and women - to understand that they are not alone and it happens quite a lot, unfortunately, and that there is support out there."

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