This month, many years of work by a campaigner who was conceived in rape (supported by Centre for Women’s Justice) led to a change in the UK’s Victim’s Code which officially recognises children born after rape as victims of crime.
The campaigner (who uses the pseudonym “Daisy”) was taken into care shortly after birth and subsequently adopted. When she turned 18 and was able to access her social services file, she learned that her mother was only 13 when she gave birth; her biological father, Carvel Bennett, was 28. However, he was not prosecuted for his crime against Daisy’s mother at the time.
The public revelations of Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse of children in 2012 were a catalyst, leading Daisy to decide to track down her biological father in the hope of prosecuting him.
However, at the time, Daisy was told a prosecution could not be brought on the basis of her complaint, because only her birth mother, not Daisy herself, was legally considered to be a victim of Bennett’s crime.
Her complaint was dismissed as “vexatious, oppressive or an abuse of process” by West Midlands Police, due to strict limitations in legislation about who can make a complaint.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, Daisy said:
I’m a walking crime scene. I wanted justice for my mum and I wanted justice for me. The ramifications of what Bennett chose to do have shaped my entire life. It’s because of that crime that I’m alive. I’m living, breathing proof of a child rape.
Ultimately, a prosecution was only initiated when Daisy’s birth mother agreed to testify. Bennett was convicted in August 2021 and sentenced to eleven years in prison. Daisy said:
I am so proud of my birth mother for her courage and bravery; the same courage and bravery she displayed as a vulnerable child but tragically was let down in terms of protection and justice. I hope that her strength and dignity encourages other survivors to come forward.
The conviction of Daisy’s biological father highlighted the exclusion of people conceived in rape from the Victim’s Code. The Centre for Women’s Justice commissioned research finding that people conceived in rape are at risk of suffering serious harm due to the circumstances of their conception and require proper support and recognition as victims.
The CWJ further noted that changing the law would have two immediate effects:
- Help to provide safeguarding measures and support for rape-conceived children (and adults), for whom such a discovery can be profoundly traumatic and impactful.
- Recognising rape-conceived persons as secondary victims – with their own statutory right to pursue a criminal complaint, if they wish to do so – may significantly improve the prospects of historic rape/child sexual abuse offences being recorded and even in prosecutions being brought, where appropriate, in cases where the pregnancy itself is compelling evidence of the crime.
Daisy and CWJ’s campaign was ultimately successful, as the UK government has now announced that all children conceived in rape will have access to the protections and supports made available to victims by the new Victims’ Bill.