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!!!!ENORMOUS CONTENT NOTE FOR RAPE, RAPE APOLOGISM AND SUICIDE!!!!!!
This is a guest post from Sian Lacey Taylder, a writer and PhD student.
In September 2006 I was raped in what might be called a classic ‘date rape’ scenario, in the living room of my own home. I was encouraged by a friend to go to the police and, four days after the event, I called the sexual assault unit. I can’t fault the response or attitude of the police; I had two female officers who supported me through the interminable period between crime and trial. As a male-to-female transsexual I expected to expose myself to all kinds if ridicule but I experienced none; quite the contrary, in fact.
To my surprise the CPS charged my assailant with rape but for various reasons the trial didn’t go ahead until March 2008, some eighteen months after the event. It was a difficult time – my coping strategies mostly involved alcohol and self-harm and I was discouraged from seeking counselling as anything said in those sessions could have been used as evidence.
But that limbo was as nothing when compared to the trial. You’ve probably seen dramatic recreations on the television, probably read accounts of the Le Vell trial; let me you, nothing can prepare you for having to stand in that witness box and listen to every aspect of your life torn to shreds.
Inevitably, the case against him soon became a case against me. I’d expected and prepared myself for the predictable questions, about my gender and why hadn’t I gone to the police immediately. What I hadn’t anticipated was the counsel for the defence playing me at my own game – and winning. I’m a writer, I deal in fiction, some of it darkly erotic but even I couldn’t have invented the narrative my assailant’s barrister delivered in Luton Crown Court. It went something along the lines that, in order to take revenge on the male sex, I’d spiked his drink, masturbated him then spread his semen in and around my own anus. Yes, it was that sort of rape.
It sounds more preposterous now than it did then. You’d have thought nobody in their right mind would have believed it but the defence had already softened the jury with a character assassination that also belongs in the realms of metafiction. They fell for it hook, line and sinker. What follows is an account of the experience written shortly after the trial came to an end, the rapist having been found not guilty. I’d taken a leaf out of the defence counsel’s book and dressed it up as a third person narrative; it’s part of a longer memoir cum autobiographical novel that still remains a work in progress.
That Siân Lacey Taylder has not always been Siân Lacey Taylder was always going to be a predictable line of attack for the inevitable character assassination. I can’t be bothered to surf the internet for cases similar to hers; when women like Siân Lacey Taylder haven’t only been victims of rape but have had the temerity to report it to the police. If it’s happened half-a-dozen times I’d be surprised. She’s not like other women; she should’ve had the strength and physical prowess to resist. Perhaps that’s what you’re thinking, too. And let’s face it, chances are that the members of the jury fell for it hook, line and sinker as well; I doubt whether any of them had encountered a woman like her before; I’ll lay pretty good odds that each and every one of them saw the stereotype and not the victim. Doesn’t matter how intelligent or articulate she is, at the end of the day she’s a freak who can be perjured with impunity.
Because that’s what happened: perjury and a litany of false accusations so manifestly untrue she was immediately flummoxed.
Now, I’m proud to call myself a cynic, the so-called British sense of fair play is a complete anathema to me, an oxymoron – a dangerous oxymoron indeed but Siân Lacey Taylder still possessed a residual modicum of faith in the English legal system, not least because the Hertfordshire constabulary had treated her with nothing but dignity and respect.
Possessed a residual modicum of faith in the English legal system. I use the preterit advisedly.
How much can I tell you of the tissue of lies Siân Lacey Taylder’s assailant concocted with the help of his defence barrister? Let’s just say that they turned the truth on its head and accused her … well, more or less accused her of committing an act of violation against her assailant – or as close as was physically possible given her circumstances. I’ll spare you the gory minutiae, according to the counsel for the defence Ms Lacey Taylder spiked the drink of the man who raped her and took advantage of his comatose state.
It was, they argued, a classic case of revenge on the whole of the male sex.
I’ll tell you something, it would have made for an intriguing plotline but no agent, publisher or self-respecting reader would have bought it. God only knows how the jury were taken in but you can’t legislate for ignorance can you?
But that’s not the half of it. The next thing she knows, Ms Lacey Taylder is having the content and subject matter of her website and novel quoted verbatim as evidence of her disturbed state of mind. Since when has a work of fiction purported to be factual and reliable account of events? It’s a fucking story, for God’s sake, you can’t use that in a court of law.
Apparently you can. Here are just a couple of the offending excerpts the counsel of the defence saw fit to quote as evidence; needless to say they were taken out of context and without reference to the genre.
They say Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but the devil and myself only know the rage she suffers when deprived of the bodily bliss I considered, quid pro quo, to be rightfully mine. Whether or not he cried out ‘Rebecca’ is irrelevant, he had denied me. He was about to slump into narcosis when I threw him to the floor and, while he was still cowering in disbelief, surreptitiously removed from his wallet from his trouser pocket. In lieu of what he conspicuously failed to deliver.
Thus Siân Lacey Taylder is a woman of easy virtue, shamelessly flaunting her depraved and dishonest sexuality. Not only that, but using it for her own insidious ends.
In that split second of freedom I seized the burning candle and, before he had chance to recoil, tipped its burning, molten wax like a pellucid lava over the cherry-red helmet of his oscillating penis. He screamed, quite naturally, but with a clamour that terrified me for I had no idea as to the sensitivity of that ironically tender and fragile organ. It reared up in agony, like a wounded beast, and I cackled with undisguised delight.
Thus Siân Lacey Taylder is a woman of perverted sexual fantasies that border on the dangerous. Her fiction is the product of a disturbed mind and should carry a public health warning. In fact, it might be a good idea if Siân Lacey Taylder herself carried a public health warning, a placard around her neck advising any male unfortunate enough to cross her that she suffers from phallophobia.
On account of her once possessing one herself. You don’t think the counsel for the defence let that one pass without comment, do you? Talk about a condemned woman. They might have well have cast the first stone there and then.
She approached her victim, eyes set firmly on the prize, the dagger so close to her lips that with one slip she might have punctured them and left a trickle of blood behind her. She would not have cared; the unholy scream that came forth would still have echoed around the room and pierced the hearts and the souls of all who stood within its range. She raised the blade and brought it plunging deep into the heart of the priest.
Thus Siân Lacey Taylder is revealed as a woman with an unhealthy obsession with knives – as opposed to a healthy obsession with knives? She has sworn an oath on the bible and feels compelled to confess that, yes, she did wave the knife at her assailant and that, yes, she does have an issue with self-harm. Who the fuck is she trying to kid?
It’s not that we can’t trust anything she says; we’re not quite accusing her of being a liar (well, in actual fact we clearly are accusing her of being a liar but we have to be a bit more subtle about it); what we’re saying is that as we can’t trust everything she says (notice the subtle difference?). Her evidence simply cannot be considered reliable.
Or, in common parlance: Not only is Ms Siân Lacey Taylder a grotesque and deviant specimen, she’s completely off her trolley and her narrative’s riddled with inconsistencies. Fuck me; the case shouldn’t have been allowed to come to court in the first place. Just think how much of the Great British public’s hard-earned taxes have been wasted on this charade, no wonder the country’s in state of parlous moral turpitude.
But here’s the icing on the fucking cake. The protagonist of Siân Lacey Taylder’s work in progress, as featured on her website – went by the name of Lucretia. That she was named after the Sisters of Mercy song rather than Ms Borgia cut no ice with the defence counsel who neglected, of course, to mention the difference in the spelling.
But neither did her my own lawyer. Poor Siân Lacey Taylder. She never stood a fucking chance. The trial lasted over a week but the rapist got off scot-free.
You don’t need me to tell you how she reacted. More broken furniture and blood smears on the floor; the police calling round the following morning to make sure she was okay.
Okay? Okay?!! For fuck’s sake, of course she wasn’t okay. Siân Lacey Taylder would never be the same again.
Worse than that, Siân Lacey Taylder would never be Siân Lacey Taylder again; she’s reached the beginning of the end.
Seven years after the rape, five years after the travesty of justice – I mean trial – and I’m still a very angry woman. What that bastard did destroyed my already fragile sense of identity and, in April 2009, precipitated a suicide attempt. When my support officers came to visit me the day the trial ended, to say goodbye, one of them hugged me and, in tears, told me she, too, had been a victim of rape. Then, over the years, as I began to open up, so many more women related similar experiences. That’s why the furore over the Le Vell acquittal angered me so much I had to turn off the radio; the immediate assumption that the poor girl had been lying and the predictable calls for accused rapists to be given the same anonymity as their victims. ‘They will blame the woman’; it started with Eve, it’s still the default mind-set.
As for me. If I’m ever diagnosed with a terminal disease and given a few months to live I know what I’m going to do; I’ve already planned it. It won’t be pretty but it will be effective.
The Department for Education has sneakily removed trans* children from its inclusion statement in the National Curriculum. Compare and contrast drafts.
It’s a complete hot mess. The government have given a really unsatisfying response.
I’ve also taken the liberty of setting up a petition, because while petitions are complete bollocks, they can be a useful means for increasing visibility of an issue.
Please make a lot of noise about this issue. We can’t let this instance of blatant and illegal cissexism go unchallenged. This could have a devastating impact on the lives of trans* children.
UPDATE 22/8: The DfE have said they will reinstate gender identity and the whole thing was a “drafting error“. To me, this is an unsatisfactory response. How on earth did they manage to forget about an entire group of people due to an accidental typo? How many people saw the drafts and missed this? Whatever happened, the cause must be cissexism. I have altered the petition accordingly, focusing on a demand for an explanation and I am looking forward to seeing the results of the FoI request, even as it is likely to be a fob-off.
Freedom–the oldest anarchist bookshop in London–was firebombed in the early hours of yesterday morning. It’s believed that fascists were responsible; this is not the first time the bookshop has been attacked by the far right. The need help to repair the damage done. You can find details for how to donate money to them on their website.
I went down there today to help with the cleanup, as did many other members of the community. I could rhapsodise about the romance of people coming together to help, but in truth it was just a bunch of people doing a sad task that shouldn’t have ever needed doing in the first place. There is something uniquely distressing about sorting through a vast pile of books, performing triage on what can be saved and what cannot.
The good news is, many of the books were salvageable, and the building has not been structurally damaged in the attack. However, Freedom still need help. Please donate what you can, or perhaps consider getting in touch with the bookshop and organising a fundraising event of your own.
Freedom can recover from this attack, but they need a bit of help to do so. Can you help, just a little bit?
Everyone else seems to be churning out the end-of-year reviews and predictions for 2012. I did not.
I didn’t write a review because I expect 2012 to be much the same, but escalated.
I expect the nice things to escalate, the delightful growth of friendships, meeting more like-minded people and having a better grip on what makes me happy.
And I expect all the terrible things to escalate. Capitalism will find new ways to horrify; the state will escalate its attacks on everyone who is not a rich white dude; kyriarchy will continue to insidiously prevail.
2012 is merely the sequel.
A while ago I wrote about how Mary Wollstonecraft would have reacted to realising she was completely vindicated in her Vindication, and that she was absolutely bang-on.
To summarise, here is a macro to wheel out at those times where you know Wollstonecraft would have been livid, like if she read More! magazine or found herself stuck watching skin cream adverts.