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Pursuing a sexual assault claim: 'You see what you could have been when you face what was taken away'

Our client Claire* was sexually assaulted several years ago and decided to pursue a personal injury claim against her abuser. She explains what it was like to finally report the crime and regain her self-belief.

"At the time of the assault, I never considered going to the police or speaking to a lawyer. Years later, when I finally did report it, I was very, very angry that I'd been part of a silent culture for so long.

Telling the police was a very prolonged and difficult process, but I do think they were prepared to listen in a non-judgemental way, something that might not historically have been the case.

I then read something Jill had written about her experience of running other sexual assault cases and decided to call her. I spoke to her secretary first, but Jill responded immediately and set up a meeting.

I won't pretend I wasn't scared, but Jill helped me to understand how making a claim would work and that it was my chance to get justice – I might not receive an apology or an admission of guilt, but at the very least, any settlement would be concrete recognition of what happened to me.

Jill was amazing. She is professional but empathetic, clear-thinking, straightforward and absolutely knows her stuff. I trusted her from the start to help me through something horribly difficult. It was very painful repeatedly recounting my story but we always had the end result in mind.

I'm not a legal person and the law is daunting. There's always the fear that you're not going to understand, that it's out of your control, that you're stupid. Jill helped me understand every step, every process.

It helps massively that victims of sexual abuse have automatic anonymity, particularly when the perpetrator is well known and there is press interest. There is that terrible feeling, something I've heard from other women, that somehow, even after everything, you're still partly to blame.

It was frightening beginning my case. It's traumatic talking through the whole experience over and over again. Worse, reading the psychologist's report and seeing myself as so long-term damaged in their eyes was very disturbing.

You begin to see the layers of damage that were inflicted, even though you've spent years denying it, building yourself up around it and refusing to see yourself like that. Suddenly, you're confronted by the self you were before it happened and you see what you could have been. At that point you're faced with the reality of what was taken away from you.

What happened to me made me timid. I didn't trust my own judgement. Intuitively, I wanted to run away when the assault began, but I was young and being in a situation where that type of behaviour is made to feel normal makes you question your instincts.

Disclosing what happened allowed me to trust myself again and to assert myself. I'd lost my sense of self and it was so shameful. I was ashamed because I was made to feel complicit. Women question themselves.

Being able to blow a whistle was so amazingly transformative, it gave me back my bravery, my self-belief. Having it in black and white on the record was hugely important.

Talking to Jill turned the story around, not least since she is so clear on the morality of justice.

Sex crimes will always be performed by an individual and often within a structure that enables that behaviour. But being able to challenge that behaviour means the power dynamic changes and that is a good way to protect other people.

Seeing the younger generation taking back control now and making a stand makes me proud and glad that, in a small way, I turned something so horrific into something positive for them."

*name changed

View Jill Greenfield's profile here.

Find out more about sexual assault claims.

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