Fair Point: Hounded - for being a victim

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She was only doing her job.

But what a job. Dissecting another woman’s sanity and smashing through her painstakingly reconstructed but still fragile self-esteem. Making everyone doubt her honesty.

Violinist Frances Andrade had been brutally cross-examined - some might call it verbal rape - by the brilliant counsel for the defence, Kate Blackwell QC.

But Frances had not been on trial. The teacher who indecently assaulted her as a child was in the dock.

Yet her ordeal was such that it took her to the point where she thought no-one in the court room would ever believe her, just as her own mother hadn’t about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a member of her family. Distraught and nursing the pain of her freshly-picked emotional wounds, Frances went home last week and killed herself.

Less than a week after she had given evidence against her former music teacher, the highly regarded musician, a much-loved wife and mother of four, took an overdose. At the age of 48, the abuse she had suffered at the age of 14 had finally taken her over. Her body was found days before Michael Brewer, for almost 20 years the respected head of music at the Chetham School of Music in Manchester, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault along with his ex-wife Kay.

All in a day’s work, Kate Blackwell QC had accused Frances of being a liar and a fantasist. She attempted to trip her at every end and turn and confuse her. It worked. She took mother-of-four Frances to the point where she was virtually unable to remember dates and details from her childhood as she attempted to tell the court of her ordeal.

But the questioning and the attempts to discredit had to be done. It’s the way our law courts work. The person in the dock isn’t guilty until proven and has the right to legal representation - someone who will fight his/her corner tooth and nail.

Ms Blackwell QC was doing what every other defence lawyer will continue to do.

But the system is failing the very people the law is there to protect - the victims.

The majority will have been doubted and dismissed from the very day they were first assaulted - that’s if they ever got brave enough to tell. Many never do because their abusers convince them they will never be believed by anyone.

There has to be a better way of protecting the vulnerable, wounded and still-healing victims of abuse as their stories are weighed up by judge or jury.

Because if we can’t come up with anything, their childhood terrors will remain secrets as they grow up and their abusers will go on finding other little victims.