A girl falsely accused me of rape and it almost ruined my life
Nick (not his real name) ‘was basically under house arrest for three years’
24-year-old Nick has just graduated from Engineering at the University of Manchester. He’s got a fiancée, friends, family. He’s got a good job. And when he was a fresher, a false rape accusation almost ruined his life. This is his story.
You see so much in the media about one side of things, but nobody ever talks about the other side of things, about people who are falsely accused and go all the way through and get found innocent at the end of it.
I went to university in Edinburgh and met a girl at the uni in freshers week. We were together, but during second semester the relationship started to end. The night before my birthday she came to my room to see me, we had sex. The next day she accused me, came to my room and said she hadn’t wanted it and that I’d raped her.
She spoke to me for about a month afterwards, and kept saying how horrible I was. But it wasn’t until a month later that things progressed. I was going into a lecture and one of the university’s welfare officer came and said: “I need to see you, can you come with me please?”, and I went with her to her office, and there were two police officers sat there.
‘I had no idea she would actually report me’
She just made me feel like rubbish, but we had a lot of the same lectures together, so after that last time we had sex I saw her almost every day for a month. I was completely shocked, I never thought she would do anything like that. We were fine, we did classes together and everything.
I got taken to the station and locked in a cell for four hours, interviewed for two hours, then put back in the cell for another couple of hours. I was taken back to the university’s welfare office for them to tell me that I was lucky they were allowing me on campus at all, that I would have to move residences to an all male residence block and that I had 24 hours to do so. It turned out they accidentally moved me to one that wasn’t all male and a week later they said “oh no we’ve made a mistake, you’ve got to move again”. So I said no and dropped out of the university.
‘It went all the way to the courts’
I was allowed to go to my parent’s address in England, but I had to go back up to Scotland to attend maybe like 40-50 hearings and pre-trial dates and then the trial itself. And in the trial itself, it was really strange. Went in, it was supposed to start on the Thursday morning, it was delayed until the Thursday afternoon. On the first day the judge swore the jury in and then broke for the day.
And then Friday morning she comes in, gives her evidence so to speak, and the judge actually ended up questioning her as well, asking: “did you do this? Did you say no? No. Did you try to stop him? No. Did you fight back? No”. Basically he was just trying to quiz her. In the end, we broke for lunch and after lunch the judge said, after hearing the accusation this morning, I can see there’s no case to answer. It was completely thrown out of court in February 2012, but I was arrested in 2009 — the ordeal went on for two and a half years.
I stayed off uni for year and worked in a computer repair shop – I only got my job because my dad happened to be friends with the guy who ran it, because every other job I would have had reveal it on the application and they would have turned me down for it. Even though I was eventually completely exonerated they don’t care about that, they treated me like a social pariah basically.
When it all started I was lost, shocked. I cried myself to sleep that night. When I got back to uni I sat on the step outside halls and burst into tears. One of my lecturers walked past and asked me what was wrong, and he fought for me really hard against the university. I was a wreck. I went to my parents house in France for a good month so I was away from everything. But the worst bit was not hearing. I didn’t hear anything between April and just after Christmas that year. There were loads of delays – the prosecution wanted to have me psychologically assessed, then the defence wanted the same. I had to go up for identity parades and had my fingerprints taken – even though I was found innocent my fingerprints and all my DNA are on their system forever. I can’t even have the arrest removed from my record. If I ever have an advanced DVS check it would show up.
The lawyers received a summons on Christmas Eve but they let me have Christmas. My lawyer was great, he even showed me filing cases at his office that were full of the same sort of cases, of people being falsely accused – girlfriends who had accused exes, had one night stands and regretted it, accused boys because they didn’t like him and wanted to get rid of him. It was basically the only type of case they dealt with.
My family were really supportive too. The first thing my dad did when I came back down from Edinburgh when he picked me up at Manchester station he sat me in the car round the corner and said “Is it true? Did you do it?”, and when I said no he said “Right, I believe you” and fought tooth and nail for me. But I had to go everywhere with my dad: holiday to France, to gigs. I wasn’t allowed to go to clubs. Our family tradition was to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and I had to ask police permission to do that. I had to ask permission to move away from my halls in Edinburgh to my parents house because it was a change of bail address, I had to ask permission to stay at my grandparents house.
I was basically under house arrest for nearly three years.
‘Most of my friends from uni stopped speaking to me’
They just heard the word “rape” and most people’s opinion is there’s no smoke without fire. I was completely ostracised by everyone. Of the people I knew while up there I’m in contact with just one of them nowadays.
I changed university to Manchester – they didn’t ask anything about it on the admissions. And then when they did find out about it in Manchester I was again forced to move to a certain block, wasn’t allowed to go to certain places or do certain things. I don’t know how Manchester found out about it. I found out the Edinburgh one was going to trial and my parents came to uni to speak to me about it – and the next day everyone in my hall of residence knew about it so obviously someone had overheard it. It filtered up to the warden who moved me to an all male block.
I was just partly through my second year when it all ended. While it was going on I wasn’t allowed to go to certain areas of campus. I was basically restricted to only my department. I was completely ostracised again, it was exactly the same. They called me all sorts, my stuff was defaced. They threw rotten milk on my door. I got moved to an all male block and none of the guys knew about it apart from the warden, and when it all went away – I was also told by the uni that should the allegations have been held up I wouldn’t be allowed to come back, because any student that brings the university into disrepute could be summarily dismissed.
When I was found innocent I rang the university and a woman just told me “fine”. I never heard anything more, no “sorry for the way we’ve treated you, nice to hear that you’ve been exonerated”, just “fine”.
I stayed at Manchester after I was cleared and graduated this summer with a Master’s. I have a graduate job working for the Power board, and obviously because it was all thrown out I don’t have to declare it to anyone. But I’ll probably never be able to visit the US. I can’t sign their ESTA, even if I wanted to go to Disney World I’d have to go for a meeting at the Consulate and they’re unlikely to grant me a Visa.
‘I’ve never spoken to the girl again’
The last I heard of her she’s working somewhere in the far reaches of Scotland, and it turned out afterwards , one of her friends told me after it was all over, that this girl had shacked up with another guy at the same time, just before she accused me, and he’d seen her leaving my block and asked her what was happening. I think she told him and it all spiralled out of control.
I think she regretted it. I heard through a mutual friend that she didn’t want any of it to happen after it had all happened. She made the accusation and it basically changed the whole direction of my life. I’ve become ill as a result of it all as well – I’ve got chronic fatigue syndrome. The stress of it just caused my body to basically break. It was finally diagnosed in about March 2012 just after it had all ended. There were lots of horrible things. They dug up my entire medical history and pored through it, they found out the names of my ex-girlfriend and questioned on her on what I was like in a relationship with her and had I ever forced her to do anything. They went over every part of my life with a fine comb.
I struggle to be in relationships since. I was with a girl while it was all going on but the relationship broke down. I told her what was happening and she stayed with me for the whole thing but it broke down not long afterwards. I’m with someone else now. I got engaged at Easter and I’ve been with my fiancee about three years, but I still have issues because of it. I get nightmares, problems sleeping, problems while having sex. If I’m having sex now and something goes wrong, if someone gets hurt or says ‘ow’, that will cause me to suddenly have a massive panic attack. There are issues with performance.
I had a counsellor while at university but that was due to something else. I spoke to him about it quite a lot. They think along with the ME I have PTSD because of it. I have anxiety issues. I am going to have to have therapy for that. But it’s hard to be referred and I hate telling doctors because their attitude to me changes.
I know the law says innocent until proven guilty, but society treats you as someone who basically should be feared and shunned.
‘To anyone who’s going through a false rape accusation, I’d say don’t stop fighting’
The moment you stop fighting is the moment you lose. You could protest your innocence for the rest of your life if you had to. It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe you, keep fighting. It’s horrible. I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through it, not even my worst enemy. The thing is, if someone knew enough about me they could Google and find out all my case details. If this helps one more person through it then that’s worth it.
Although Nick struggles with intimacy because of his ordeal, he’s now engaged to Megan, a student at Aberystwyth. Megan says she never once doubted his innocence.
We met in Manchester when we did a theatre production together. When it was going through trial we weren’t together but we were friends, I didn’t know fully what was going but I knew something was going on. I knew if I pressed I might push him away so it was a case of just waiting and eventually he did open up and tell me.
It wasn’t something that was new to me, false accusations, because I’ve had friends before who have been through that sort of thing. While I was at school there was a boy who was accused of assaulting someone during school hours by another girl in the same year. That case collapsed because the girl who accused him was basically caught in a web of accusations and lies. She told everyone what he did, and I just thought, if you had been raped, you wouldn’t do that.
‘If you know a person well enough, you know they wouldn’t do it’
I never doubted Nick, I’ve known him for a while and while we weren’t very good friends, if you know a person well enough, you know for a fact that he wouldn’t do it. I had to wait and see how it panned out, thinking “if he does get convicted, would it ruin the relationship?” and I honestly don’t think it would.
The relationship didn’t really start until after the case. I did tell my parents about what was happening straight away, so they always knew where I was going with Nick, because my mum’s very very protective. But she was fine with me still seeing him. She knew if anything happened I could defend myself. But she automatically thought that it was true.
When we got together everyone looked at him differently even though the trial was over. They immediately looked at him like he was a rapist and was going to attack them. Their entire attitude changed, at Manchester in his halls people who were friendly and played pranks on each other stopped and avoided him as soon as they found out about the trial — even though it was over.
Not a lot of my friends knew because I knew he wouldn’t want me to talk about it. It has put a strain on our relationship but I try to get him to talk through it. During sex he has to have a verbal yes from me every single time, even if I insinuate or get on top, he still has to have an affirmative yes to go ahead. And if at any point he feels I don’t want it anymore, even if it’s the slightest negative energy in the room he will stop completely.
‘Why are victims getting all the support, when the falsely accused get nothing?’
I do get very touchy about the subject of rape, especially when it’s on TV, the subject of debates, whether it’s in the news or on my Facebook. Nobody’s going to verbally give consent every time. If you’re on a night out and you just want to have sex at the end of the night, you want to have fun. It’s not just guys who want to do that, it’s women too. If you have a couple of drinks and you give consent, you can’t say it’s rape just because you wake up the next morning and regret it. That isn’t rape. And that’s the problem.
I think the accused and the victim have to be anonymous. We need more for the falsely accused. There’s no support for them like there is for rape victims. There’s nothing. Why are the victims getting all the support, and the falsely accused are getting nothing? It’s just not fair.
Kingsley Napley solicitor Sandra Paul has argued for anonymity for people accused of rape and sexual assault. She said: “These accusations are with you for the rest of your life. If something happens to me aged mid 40s you might think because my career’s built, my peers are understanding, they might consider more whether it’s true or not, knowing me. But when you’re 18 you have no background, you have nobody backing you up. Those allegations can be life-altering when you’re young.
“It’s very rare to come across people who will say ‘let’s wait and see what the evidence is and whether he’s acquitted’. It’s always like ‘well where there’s smoke there’s fire’, there’s a lingering bad smell that goes with an allegation like that – and that alone is reason enough to say there’s argument for anonymity.
“It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s just about having a level playing field.”