'My trauma meant they couldn't charge my rapist' - violent attacker escaped justice because victim's shock affected her witness statement

"Trauma changes your brain", says Martha Ward from Wakefield.

The 28-year-old is one of the 95 per cent of victims who report being raped but never see the perpetrator charged.

"Trauma changes your brain", says Martha Ward from Wakefield.

"Trauma changes your brain", says Martha Ward from Wakefield.

Waiving her legal right to anonymity, Martha tells how she was raped in 2017 by a stranger who attacked her in a hotel following a night out in Manchester.

As with all serious sexual assault cases, Martha gave a statement immediately after reporting the rape to police at the hotel reception, then a video interview four days later.

However, due to the shock in the immediate aftermath, there were minor discrepancies in the two statements, meaning the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) couldn't charge her rapist as this made a conviction less likely.

Less than one year later, Martha was raped again by a different person, and never reported it because of her previous experience.

Martha said: "I had been on a night out in Manchester and I'd gone back to the hotel.

"I could see a man struggling to get into his room, so I told him he could use the phone in my room to contact reception, and that's when it happened."

The man subjected Martha to a violent attack which left her covered in bruises.

"I went to my friend's room and the hotel reception called the police. They came and arrested him.

“They interviewed me and took all the initial swab tests at the hotel - it was horrific. I just wanted to scream.

“A couple of days later a photographer came and took photographs of my injuries. There were bruises all over because he was quite violent. Then another couple of days later I did a video statement.

“He was released under investigation because it was a stranger and didn’t pose a risk to me at that time."

A few weeks later, Martha was called by detectives at Greater Manchester Police who told her the man they arrested had claimed she had consented to sex with him, and that small differences in her two statements meant barristers would cast doubt on her account at a trial.

"They said the CPS weren't going to charge because there were some tiny inconsistencies in my account, and if it got to trial the barristers would have picked it apart.

"I read later that trauma changes your brain - there were things I would have forgotten immediately afterwards, then remembered further down the line.

"Because of this, he was never charged.

"I have absolutely no idea whether he is walking around still, he could have done this to someone else."

Some months later, Martha was raped again at the beginning of 2018.

"I didn't report it", Martha admitted. "After everything that happened the last time, I just felt we are not listened to when we tell people what's happened.

"The only comfort is that I later found out I was entitled to compensation for victims of major crime.

Martha Ward, from Wakefield, has waived her legal right to anonymity after she was raped at a hotel in 2017. Picture: James Hardisty

"On that level, I felt like there was some sort of official recognition of what happened."

Throughout her ordeal, Martha has found ways of making a positive difference and now works with other people who have survived rape.

"Even now, I find certain scenarios triggering.

"But I think in a way I've managed to turn the whole experience into a positive. Since what happened, I've managed to help other survivors."

A spokeswoman for the CPS said: “Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases we prosecute and we train our prosecutors to understand victim vulnerabilities and the impact of rape, as well as consent, myths and stereotypes.

"The growing gap between the number of rapes recorded, and the number of cases going to court is a cause of concern for all of us in the criminal justice system. We consider every case referred to us by the police and the CPS will seek to charge and robustly prosecute whenever our legal test is met.

“Victims have the right to ask for a review of their case by another prosecutor, independent of the original decision-maker, and this is another way we can make sure we are fair and transparent in what we do."