Alice's story How the Young Witness Service helped when Alice had to testify at her abuser's trial

Alice's story“I was very young when I was sexually abused by someone known to my family. It took me 10 years to tell anyone what I’d been through. I was scared about what had happened and didn’t know who to turn to.

“Looking back, it feels like I lost my childhood. As I grew older, I started isolating myself from my family and friends and had problems sleeping with night terrors. I used to find it difficult to concentrate in school and had problems remembering stuff. To cope I used to self-harm.

“I told my family what had happened to me when I was teenager. I had to have an interview with the police and social services after I’d told them. The police were nice but I was scared to answer the questions – I was worried that no-one would believe me.

"On the first day of the trial, I went through the front doors of the court as my abuser was going in the back."
Alice*

“The police told me that they wanted to take the case to court. I got worried as it got closer to the time. My mum got in touch with NSPCC and I was linked with the Young Witness Service.

“Anne*, my key worker, came out to my house to meet me which was good. She was really cheerful when I met her. I’d been nervous about another new face – a new person coming to meet me. She went through what was going to happen during court and said that she was trying to see if I could give evidence through a live link.

“On the first day of the trial, I went through the front doors of the court as my abuser was going in the back. It was all very formal and different. People using terms like “Your Honour” and it was hard to take the wigs seriously. I tried not to giggle at the wigs but then I remembered why I was there.

"[Anne and Colleen] are the reason why I felt supported, they were really important."
Alice

“It was really good to have Anne and Colleen*, my Young Witness Service volunteer, in the court waiting room to distract me. They’re the reason why I felt supported, they were really important. Colleen wouldn’t let me sit on my phone and made me do something productive so we ended up playing cards. I’d have just been playing on my phone, looking through pics, making myself look occupied. Colleen was able to sit in the corner of the live link room while I was giving evidence. It was good to have another person in the room, even though I couldn’t talk to her.

“I knew I was going to be questioned on my video evidence in court but didn’t know I would have to watch it over again. I felt really uncomfortable watching the interview in court and it felt weird watching it again.

“I was told I wouldn’t have to see the ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) interview or be questioned about the incident but then I was. One official person told me I’d get some questions but another said I wouldn’t have to talk about the sexual assault. I felt like walking out as soon as questions started about the assault. I did not realise that I would have to give such detailed answers – I thought it would just be “yes” or “no”.”

"I'd kept this to myself for so long before I told anyone."
Alice

“The whole process in court took 3 days – 2 days of evidence and 1 day for the decision. I had to give evidence for 4 hours on day one without a break. As soon as I got out of court I burst into tears. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it – my brothers were going to be at home when I got back and I just couldn’t deal with them asking me: “How did you get on?”

“The defence barrister had no sympathy whatsoever. He was intimidating and I was very angry at him. He called me a liar and said “I was making it up as I went.” I couldn’t believe what he’d said, and thought: what 6 year old imagines that? You don’t even know about stuff like that when you’re 6.

“I’d kept this to myself for so long before I told anyone. My memory went blank as soon as I walked into the room. I normally express myself through art – I don’t usually speak about it, so it was really difficult for me.

“Going to court and being questioned about my evidence brought all of my memories of the abuse straight back. I felt like my recovery was set straight back at the beginning again. My night terrors when I wake up screaming happened a lot more frequently after my court experience. I get really paranoid a lot of the time. I wouldn’t be happy to give evidence again.” 


*DISCLAiMER

Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.

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Supporting young witnesses to give evidence in court in Northern Ireland.
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