West Norfolk rape victim’s petition calls for change over counselling
A West Norfolk woman is campaigning to stop counselling notes of rape survivors being used in court.
Annie Tisshaw, 24, who is from Snettisham, says her own experience is what motivated her to launch a petition for the cause.
Annie, who now lives in London, says she was raped at her home in the capital last October and, after it happened, was “really struggling” with her mental health.
“At the beginning of the year, I was not in a good place,” she said.
Having reported the crime straight away, Annie said she thought she was doing what she was supposed to do, but “a million issues” have arisen from it.
She had to move from her home in London to a mixed hostel – but as the majority of people there were men, she moved again, this time to a women’s hostel.
It was also at this time, following her report, that Annie discovered she would not be able to discuss what happened to her, without the possibility of it having an impact on a potential trial.
She was put in touch with a number of organisations and services but she was told she would not be able to have full therapy until the police proceedings had ended.
While she was still able to have pre-trial therapy while the case was active, she was told she would not be able to speak about what had happened to her at that point, as her counselling notes could be used by the defendant’s lawyers against her.
“It’s not really prioritising victims’ mental health at all,” Annie said.
“You are waiting and waiting to get help, and in the end, your case might get dropped anyway.”
Annie’s petition to Parliament, which was set up almost six months ago, currently has more than 5,600 signatures.
This type of petition needs 10,000 signatures to receive a response from Government, and 100,000 for the petition to be considered for debate in Parliament.
The deadline for Annie’s petition is September 26.
The petition reads: “Victims of rape and sexual assault are not allowed counselling as lawyers can request their counselling notes which can be used against them, if their case goes to court.
“Victims of this nature should feel able to speak freely in a safe space without potential repercussions to their case.”
It adds that counselling is “so important for the mental health of survivors”.
“This is another barrier rape survivors have to face,” it says.
Annie, who has waived her right to anonymity, said she wants to help raise awareness of the situation faced by victims and alleged victims of sexual offences, and hopes she might be able to help bring about some change.
“Everyone’s response has been ‘we can’t believe it, it’s really shocking that you can’t have therapy’, it doesn’t make sense,” she added.
“It wasn’t a nice feeling going to therapy and knowing in the therapy you are not free to talk about what you need to talk about, knowing it could affect the case.”
As Annie’s case was dropped a few weeks ago, she is now able to speak about her experiences at therapy sessions without fear it could affect her case – something she believes would have made a difference to the state of her mental health had she been able to speak about it sooner.
“I was so gutted my case got dropped but actually I feel nice that it’s over. I do feel happier now.”
The news comes after a report by the Crown Prosecution Service, on violence against women and girls, published last week, found the number of convictions in cases of rape decreased from 2,635 in 2017-18 to 1,925 in 2018-19 – a drop of 27 per cent.
To support Annie’s petition, visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/245103.