Battle twin sisters sued by the man they reported for sexual assault
Twin sisters from Battle were taken to court and sued after naming their alleged sexual abuser on social media.
Lucy and Verity Nevitt, 23, both reported their alleged sexual assault and rape to police, but once they were told the case had been dropped, they took to social media and named the man in their allegations.
He denied the accusations and sought a court order which would hide his identity and prevent the two sisters from talking publicly about the allegations.
After a number of hearings at the High Court, Lucy and Verity and the man agreed to a settlement which allows the sisters to talk about their experience, as long as he is not identified.
Lucy said: “Our case was dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence. Such a small percentage of cases involving sexual offences end up in court and an even smaller percentage end up with a conviction. I know of just one person who has managed to get a conviction.
“I reported the rape to the police six months afterwards, and that meant there was no forensic evidence. The police were really good and explained the issues and said ‘this is the way things are at the moment’.
“Verity reported her abuse a couple of months after me because she wanted to help my case as much as possible. The two cases would have been tried together but there was a lot of evidence we didn’t have, including messages I had deleted because I couldn’t face reading them.”
Due to the lack of evidence, the allegations were dropped. After taking some advice, Lucy and Verity decided to go public, naming their alleged abuser in social media posts.
“We were told the best way to have an impact was to speak out online,” said Lucy. “We were told what to do and what to say: do not name him, say alleged, say serious sexual assault and not rape. We were given all these pointers but it just felt weird to say ‘alleged’. It did happen.
“To everyone else he seemed like such a nice guy, but I wanted to show he isn’t what he seems. From my perspective, it was about righting that wrong. Initially Verity shared her story first but we got some really nasty responses from friends we used to know and so I decided to put out my own statement.”
A few weeks later, Lucy was getting ready to see the ballet when she heard a knock on the door from a man who was holding a stack of papers the two sisters had to sign for.
Lucy and Verity had been sued under the ‘misuse of private information’. After about six months, the proceedings were changed to libel.
Lucy said: “Initially his lawyers were trying to sue to silence us on the grounds that we had ruined his reputation, his future career prospects and his mental health. At the time, we were both in therapy because of the abuse so that was a kick in the teeth.”
Without any knowledge of the law or the High Court, Lucy and Verity were forced to raise money so they could pay for lawyers to represent them in court.
After a number of hearings, and a few small wins for the twin sisters, Lucy and Verity and the man eventually agreed on a settlement: they could talk about what happened to them, but they could not identify him.
“It was a really difficult decision,” said Lucy. “It took us a long time to decide. If we had the money we would have gone the whole way.
“It was a moral question for us. We had crowdfunded and on our campaign we had spoken to other victims. It was really difficult to say we’re going to stop. This wasn’t just about us, there are so many other victims out there. We wanted that judgement of us winning the case to be written into law. But I had university work to get back to and we had to get back to living our lives. A win for us was the proceedings ending at that point.”
In September 2018, Verity and Lucy set up the Gemini Project, a nonprofit organisation to help survivors of sexual violence, which they are still running today.
Through the project, the twins want to see less burden put on victims of sexual crimes, as well as juries replaced by panels – made up of specially-trained judges, psychologists and advocates who understand the trauma – to oversee sexual violence cases.
Lucy said the Gemini Project is expanding at a fast rate, and will be bringing on a board of trustees in the next couple of months which will help them to register it as a full charity.
Lucy said: “The statistics surrounding sexual violence show that this is an issue. Lots of people are successful in blocking their victims.”
Verity added: “We are not an isolated case. We are just one instance of this issue that occurs on a far bigger scale to many others every day.”