For almost 20 years, Danniella Westbrook carried around a secret that she was prepared to take to her grave. Ashamed, terrified and humiliated, she didn’t tell a soul. After all, she was to blame, wasn’t she? Wasn’t it all her fault?
Like so many women, the former EastEnders actress beat herself up over what had happened, the secret quietly eating away at her. But earlier this year, she finally found the strength and courage to come forward and say those three words that changed her life: “I was raped.”
Now, Danniella has joined Reveal’s Report Every Rape campaign and is committed to raising awareness that rape victims need not suffer in silence. “Whether this has just happened to you or was 10 years ago, don’t feel trapped. Speak to someone, call Rape Crisis. I felt trapped for so long. But there is so much help out there now,” says the 39-year-old mum-of-two.
Danniella only spoke about her harrowing ordeal for the first time this year when writing her second book, Faith, Hope And Clarity. “In 1994, I owed some money for drugs and three guys kidnapped me. When I couldn’t pay the £5,000 debt, they held me for three days and gang-raped me,” she says.
“I was only 21. I was petrified. Who wouldn’t be? I thought they would kill me. I didn’t try to fight them – you don’t mess with people like that. They gave me Rohypnol so I was only semi-conscious at times.
“When they finally let me go I went straight home. I didn’t even think about going to the police, not in a million years. I felt lucky to be alive.
“I didn’t want to see anyone, speak to anyone. I showered about six times, scrubbing myself clean. Then I pulled the curtains, got under the quilt and just cried. It’s the most alone feeling in the whole world.”
Danniella understands only too well the reasons victims don’t feel they can report rape: “I felt I was to blame. It was all my fault – that’s what people would think. Now I look back and know that should not have happened to me. It was completely inhumane.
“It was already out in the papers that I was taking drugs so I thought everyone would think: ‘Well, if you’re taking drugs, you’ve asked for it.'”
But in not getting help, it continued to ruin her life: “I got more heavily into drugs to block out the pain. I’d already alienated my friends and family, and because I felt so worthless I ended up with low life people who didn’t treat me well. I was an object. It wasn’t until I met my husband, Kevin, that I realised that wasn’t the normal way to have a relationship with somebody.”
For confidential advice and support, contact Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999 and rapecrisis.org.uk
Full story in REVEAL MAGAZINE
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