Duffy praised for opening up about long-term impact of rape

Alexandra Topping
Photograph: David Corio/Getty Images

The singer Duffy has been praised for shedding light on the long-lasting impact of sexual trauma after revealing that she was held captive for several days and raped.

Helplines for victims of sexual violence are preparing for a rise in calls after the singer revealed that she retreated from the public eye for a decade to deal with her trauma, days after the conviction of sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

The singer was praised by campaigners and trauma experts for opening up about her experience, saying her story could inspire other victims of sexual abuse to come forward and inform potential jury members about the impact of trauma.

“Rape is still a very under-discussed, misunderstood and under-reported crime, so when someone like Duffy speaks out in such a powerful way it can make other survivors feel a little bit less alone and less ashamed – which is a very common emotion, now matter how unfounded,“ said Katie Russell, from Rape Crisis.

“Duffy is speaking now after a long time, which is really common in our experience. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people don’t report rape, and those that do may take some time – and anyone who ends up on a jury should remember that it is a very common impact of trauma.”

In a powerful post on Instagram on Tuesday Duffy, whose hugely successful debut 2008 album Rockferry sold 9m copies, revealed that she had retreated from the public eye for a decade after the ordeal to deal with her pain.

“The truth is, and please trust me, I am OK and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days,” she wrote. “Of course, I survived. The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it. But I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again – the sun does now shine.”

In a week when Weinstein’s accuser and former assistant Rowena Chiu called for more recognition that there is no such thing as the perfect rape victim, the victims’ commissioner, Vera Baird, called for a greater understanding of the myths and prejudice surrounding rape that exclude many from the criminal justice system.

Rape charges, prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest levels in more than a decade, while police referrals have also fallen. A major government review of the treatment of rape in the criminal justice system was launched last year, following the collapse in prosecutions and fears that the CPS was dropping weaker cases.

“This is a moment where we have to hear these voices and take action; we need to look at exactly is going on with rape in this country,” said Baird.

“We have seen an increase in the number of women reporting rape to police in recent years, but the truth is that the criminal justice system is not providing them with justice. The government’s end-to-end review of the system must reveal where the system is failing, and must not shy away from asking difficult questions.”

The debate and support for Duffy and the Weinstein victims are part of a seismic shift that could helped change the narrative around surviving rape if victims’ voices are heard, said Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

“I think for a long time women have been confronted with disbelief and this myth that false reports of rape are common,” she said. “With Duffy we are seeing something new – a desire to tell that story on your own terms and an empowered depiction of what coming through rape can be like.”

Duffy’s decision to tell her story in her own time and using her own channels should also provoke a discussion about alternative justice for victims of sexual crimes, said Nina Burrows, a specialist in the psychology of sexual assault.

“Most rape victims choose not to report, and the criminal justice system is increasingly not the place to find redress, so we need to be more curious about what justice for victims could look like,” she said.

“Duffy’s statement holds a mirror up. Some people react by telling horrible jokes, others want the intrigue and details, but maybe some of us could get more curious about what life is really like after an experience like that. I think people are already finding their own justice. We need to find out how they are doing it.”

In the UK, Rape Crisis (rapecrisis.org.uk), a national organisation offering support and counselling for those affected by rape and sexual abuse, can be contacted on 0808 802 9999. A list of numbers for organisations in other countries can be found here.