A brave rape survivor who was attacked when she was a teenager has gone public to reassure others they “are not alone”.
Bethany Harris was just 16-years-old when she was raped.
Now, seven years later, she has waived her right to anonymity to share her harrowing ordeal – and how she’s overcome the shattering effect it had on her life.
The 23-year-old, of Canterbury, Kent was attacked when she lived in Sussex – but seven years later she is still dealing with every day effects from the trauma.
Bethany said: “It’s important for me to share this with other people, I don’t want them to think they are the only ones.
“The stories about rape you read in the newspapers are always the ones when the perpetrator has been convicted and justice has been served – but that didn’t happen for me.
“I wish I saw stories more like this one, although the perpetrator wasn’t convicted, they are just as valid.”
Bethany said she was so terrified people wouldn’t believe her that she kept what happened a secret – until she was admitted to a psychiatric unit three weeks after the attack.
A nurse reported the incident to the police after Bethany told her what happened – but the delay meant there was not enough evidence to see the case through court.
Bethany said: “I was admitted to a psychiatric unit and I was in there when he arrested.
“I battled with my mental health before but this was the last straw.
“I told a nurse about it and she reported it for me. I was told they have to report it and I was taken into another room with two police officers.
“My case was dropped after seven weeks which made me feel horrendously guilty and it was so difficult to have closure.
“There was a lack of physical evidence because it was reported three weeks later.”
When asked why she didn’t report the attack earlier, she said: “I think people are scared to report it.
“It’s scary being interviewed by police officers and not knowing whether you will be believed or judged or what the outcome will be.
“For ages I thought no one would believe me.
“I think it was also the shock, the brain blocks out things to protect you and that makes you think you won’t be believed.
“I felt violated and betrayed. I felt horrendous, you can’t describe it.
“He got away with it and this was a big part of why I blamed myself.
“I became a different person after it happened. I changed, I had to grow up.”
Bethany completed her A Levels and went onto study at Christ Church University – despite taking three months out of college and completing her A Level coursework in hospital.
But the trauma followed her from Sussex to Canterbury and she was referred to East Kent Rape Crisis Centre for counselling.
Bethany chose to drop out after one session and didn’t return to the idea until she felt ready to self-refer last summer.
Bethany said: “I wasn’t ready to speak about it but I self-referred last July and I’ve had 30 sessions.
“Sometimes, no matter how much you want to fix things you have to just wait until you are ready for it – it’s taken me seven years.
“You can talk about it but your memory won’t be erased, you can’t take medication which will make it disappear – that’s the harsh fact.
“Little things still remind me of it – it could be a song coming on which I listened to at that time or when you see someone who looks like him.”
Since graduating from university and getting a job in children’s palliative care, Bethany has taken an active role in fundraising for the charity which helped her recover – East Kent Rape Crisis Centre.
She said: “I was given an assessment over the phone and they saw me within a week.
“They look at everything, your childhood, growing up, and then gently broach the subject.”
“For me, it helped take the blame away. They give you the reassurance it wasn’t your fault.”
Bethany, who created a fundraising page for the charity last month, said she was terrified of being judged by going public with her story.
She said: “My main worry was being judge, a lot of people will assume it is made up because you didn’t achieve justice but I think this is more important than that.
“There have been positive comments which has reassured me.
“Two people have been in touch so it’s good to know I’ve helped them and I’ve not opened up for no reason.
“Doing this makes you feel very exposed and vulnerable.
“He is living his life as normal, not thinking about it but for me, I’m thinking about it all of the time, every day.
“Even though he didn’t get convicted, there is now something on record so if he touched another woman, there will be a mark against his name which I have to keep remembering.
“People are scared they will be judged but it’s okay to speak up even if you haven’t achieved justice.”