The F-Word: ‘“Not guilty” doesn’t mean she lied’.
Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell (real name Michael Turner) was cleared of charges of child assault and rape this week, after a lengthy trial that has been heavily covered and discussed in the media. However, a blog post by Laura on feminist website The F-word, entitled ‘“Not guilty” does not mean she lied’, explains the nature of a ‘not guilty’ verdict more fully. The blog post says that it does not necessarily mean that the defendant didn’t commit a crime, but that there is not enough evidence for a conviction. It means that the jury could not be 100% sure that the defendant, in this case Le Vell, committed the crime for which they were standing trial.
The post also explains in more depth the potential psychological effects of such violent and abusive crimes, in dispute of claims that the prosecuting lawyer made about the girl’s experiences. Psychological shutting down commonly happens in sexual abuse, as one of the body’s ways of trying to protect itself, which can lead to difficulty in remembering exactly what happened. The prosecuting lawyer also said that the child would have screamed if the attack had happened, but again we know that this is not necessarily true – when someone is being attacked they often go into ‘freeze mode’, which means that they are unable to fight, shout out or even try and move. Post-traumatic stress can also present after an attack, which makes it difficult to function properly and to remember. Flashbacks, or snippets of memory often appearing to come out of nowhere, are common.
At The Grove we understand the complex effects of sexual abuse. We know that people who have been abused, either repeatedly or as a one-off, as adults or as children, will often find it difficult to remember exactly what happened. You may struggle in many areas of your life due to the ongoing effects of the abuse, even if it happened decades ago. We know how important it is to tell your story, and we understand that this can be difficult, frightening and confusing.
We also understand how, within a culture that often blames victims and fails to understand the complexities of the effects of abuse and trauma, people who have experienced abuse may find it hard to come forward and talk. You may even begin to question yourself whether the abuse actually happened, or whether what did happen actually was abuse.
At The Grove we will provide a space where you can talk, and be heard. We will witness your story, and support you through the re-telling. Maybe you want to tell your tale and deal with the pain of the past so that you can start to move on once more. You may be feeling particularly effected by so many stories about rape and paedophilia in the media at the moment, and perhaps an experience that has lain dormant for many years has been brought to the fore once more. Or perhaps you are thinking about confronting your abuser, or considering reporting the rape to the police. If so let’s talk first, so that we can help you prepare what you are going to say and how you are going to do it.
Many of our counsellors have experienced of working with adult and child survivors of sexual abuse, have received specialist training and understand the complexities and confusions that surround experiences and the legacies of abuse.