Obituary: Jill Saward, campaigner for rape victims

File photo of Jill Saward who has died aged 51. See NTI story NTIRAPE; A woman who became a sexual assault campaigner after she was raped during a burglary at her father's vicarage in 1986 has died. Jill Saward, then 21, was sexually assaulted by two men in Ealing, west London. Her boyfriend and father Michael were severely beaten. At the end of the trial of her rapists, the judge said her trauma "had not been so great", sparking outrage. She was the first rape victim in the UK to waive her anonymity.
File photo of Jill Saward who has died aged 51. See NTI story NTIRAPE; A woman who became a sexual assault campaigner after she was raped during a burglary at her father's vicarage in 1986 has died. Jill Saward, then 21, was sexually assaulted by two men in Ealing, west London. Her boyfriend and father Michael were severely beaten. At the end of the trial of her rapists, the judge said her trauma "had not been so great", sparking outrage. She was the first rape victim in the UK to waive her anonymity.
Share this article
0
Have your say

Jill Saward, campaigner. Born: 15 January 1965 in Liverpool. Died: 5 January 2017 in Wolverhampton, aged 51.

Jill Saward,the rape victim who waived her right to anonymity and called on other victims of sexual assault to come forward about their ordeal, has died. She was 51.

The cause was a subarachnoid hemorrhage, her family said in a statement.

Saward was 21 when members of an armed gang broke into the West London vicarage used by her father, an Anglican priest, and the family. Attackers dragged her upstairs and repeatedly raped her, while another man burgled the house.

Her father and her boyfriend were severely beaten.

Although the rapists were convicted, the case drew criticism after they received substantially shorter prison sentences than the man who had carried out the burglary.

John Leonard, the judge who sentenced the men, was quoted as saying that the rapists should be shown leniency because “the trauma suffered by the victim was not so great,” according to news accounts at the time. He later expressed regret for the comment.

There was also public criticism of the way the news media covered the trial, publishing details that allowed Saward to be identified easily.

Saward’s case led to changes in attitudes toward rape victims and important legal overhauls. Victims of sexual assault were given the right to appeal lenient sentences and the media was blocked from identifying a victim before a defendant was charged.

In 1990, Saward became the first person in Britain to waive her right to anonymity as a victim of rape. With Wendy Green, she wrote a book, Rape: My Story, in which she spoke openly about her trauma, how it had led to suicidal thoughts and how she had overcome them. “I believe forgiveness gives you freedom,” she wrote. “Freedom to move on without being held back by the past.”

Saward went on to give training to judges and police on how to treat rape victims.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, called Saward a “heroic and remarkable campaigner for the victims of rape”.

Saward is survived by her husband, Gavin Drake, three sons and a brother, Joe.

Her family noted that she had said she wanted to be an organ donor after death, adding: “It gives us great comfort to know that our wonderful wife, mother and sister was able to help other people to the very end.”