AS a rape victim, Susan George says her journey through the police and judicial system – ending with her attacker being jailed – was a good one.
But she fears others are failed by lack of support and understanding of ordeals they have faced, and must face if a case reaches court.
She wants more support for victims and alleged victims to minimise the trauma of what can, she said, feel like a never-ending nightmare.
“I had very good support from Gwent Police during and after the court process and can’t understand why that isn’t the case for everyone,” said Ms George, who has waived her anonymity and has spoken about rape from a victim’s perspective at seminars for Gwent and Dyfed Powys Police forces, and supported other victims.
“My experience was really good, and it troubles me to think I might have been an exception. The prime minister and the justice minister ought to be lobbied about this issue. It must be taken seriously.”
Ms George’s attacker, ex-boyfriend Michael Glyn Thomas, is serving an indeterminate sentence, after being found guilty in January 2009 of multiple charges, including seven counts of rape on three women.
She believes victims of alleged rape should have access to a designated support worker, not a police officer, but someone aware of the psychological effects, to reduce the need to repeat the details and minimise further distress.
She believes such support should be provided during and after the court process, whatever the outcome – and people who have been raped and resolved personal issues arising from it could be designated workers, though this could not be told to those they are supporting.
“I think these things are do-able, and need to be implemented quickly,” said Ms George. "Everyone should expect the same high-quality support."
“Everyone should expect the same high-quality support, wherever they live, whatever their circumstances. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Ms George also wants to see issues such as rape and domestic abuse discussed in schools.
“It would be controversial but maybe in 20 years we would see rape and domestic abuse reduced,” she said.
She added that many victims and alleged victims have been helped by the Onyx Unit, Gwent Police’s specialist unit for handling serious sexual and violent crimes, and other forces could learn from its work.
Ms George has spoken out following the death of Tracey Shelvey, from Rochdale, who fell from a car park roof days after the acquittal of a man accused of raping her and several other women.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating and Greater Manchester’s PCC, Tony Lloyd, wants an urgent review of how victims and witnesses are treated.