A woman who believes that she was drugged and violently raped in a Dublin hotel while travelling to her father’s funeral is speaking out about her ordeal in a bid to dismantle the shame and stigma that silences victims.
Naomi Woodyatt woke up in a haze with burn marks on her arms, bruises on her legs, pains all over her body, while a naked man with ‘cold, lifeless eyes” smirked down at her before raping her again.
Discouraged by gardaí to formally report the crime because ‘the justice system is a joke, weighted towards perpetrators and against victims", her alleged abuser walked free. And Naomi believes that he is a calculating, serial rapist who will strike again.
But she believes that speaking out is an important step towards ending rape culture.
“Abuse thrives in secrecy,” she said.
“We have to break the stigma. There’s so much shame and that stops people speaking out.
Since I shared my story online, so many people have contacted me saying that they were raped too but they never reported it. That shame and silence has to break.
Naomi, who lives in Cork but is originally from Canada, was travelling back home to her father’s funeral after his sudden death when her ordeal began on September 1 last year.
Her grandmother who ‘was like her mother,’ had died days earlier, and then her father, who she spoke to every day, unexpectedly died in his sleep.
When she arrived at Dublin Airport to get her flight she was told at check-in that she was not allowed to board on her British passport without a visa and her Canadian passport had expired.
Grieving, vulnerable and alone, she booked into a Dublin airport hotel while she tried to iron out her visa problems.
“It was was the lowest point in my life,” she said. “I had been crying for three days straight, dad’s death had really hit me and I didn’t know if I’d make his funeral. It was a horrible, horrible time.
“I went down to the bar to get a glass of wine and this guy started talking to me. He said that he was going to Colorado for his work as an engineer. I told him I was trying to get to my dad’s funeral. It wasn’t flirty at all, he just seemed like a normal, respectable businessman in his 40s.
“He offered to buy me a drink and I don’t remember anything after that.
I woke up in the room I had paid for, he must have gone through my bag to get the key. I was lying on the twin bed and he was on the double just staring at me. It was terrifying. I said I was in pain and he just smirked, he had this lifeless, cold look in his eye, but cocky.
“He didn’t answer but came over and raped me again. I said, ‘stop, stop, I just woke up, stop,’ I was in a haze from the drugs I’m sure he gave me.
“Then he got dressed and left. I saw two glasses of Prosecco on the table - one had a strawberry in it. That’s when I realised he had drugged me.
“He knew I was going to my dad’s funeral. That must take some level of depravity. How could you have a soul and do that?
“I had bruises all over my legs, burn marks on my arms and the ring I wore every day was gone. It was just costume jewellery but it felt so personal.”
Naomi was permitted to travel to Canada that day, and she “emotionally detached” herself from the ordeal to get through her father’s funeral.
But when she returned, she couldn’t concentrate fully at work and fell into a dark place.
She got help from the Cork Rape Crisis Centre and reported her ordeal to gardaí.
The gardaí knew of a similar case in which the victim had forensic evidence from the night, witnesses had been in the house, but the alleged rapist had still walked free. Naomi said that she advised her against formally reporting it because it would be hugely traumatic and she was unlikely to get any justice.
“The Garda was so nice. She was trying to protect me,” Naomi said.
She said that the system was awful, that I’d be two years going through hell and he’d still probably walk free. There was no forensic evidence because I didn’t report it that day, and although there would be CCTV, she said that was unlikely to get a conviction.
“She said that the justice system is backward. All the weight is on the victim to prove it and the rapist just gets a free pass.
“So I went to gardaí about it but the report was never filed.”
Naomi tried to resume her busy life but she found that she couldn’t.
“I was an outgoing person before, career-focused, I used to be able to handle so much but I started dropping things at work. I wanted to get back to my normal self but I couldn’t.
“The last six months I haven’t been functional. I lost myself. It has felt like my personality had been taken out of my body. Like my soul was gone and just this shell of me was left.
“I quit work at the end of September. The last six months have been hell but I’m just starting to see me again.”
Naomi said that her alleged attacker had seemed perfectly normal before the incident and it has damaged her trust in people.
“He had had a kind demeanour. People say criminals come in all shapes and sizes but I saw no red flags the night before.
“I have mixed emotions speaking out now,” she said, “That rawness is still there, but it also gives me some sense of control, of power. Feeling powerless is terrible.”
And rape, as Mary Crilly of Cork’s Rape Crisis Centre told her, is all about power.
“Rape is not about lust or sexual attraction. It’s about power, Mary told me.”
And silence allows that power to persist.
“There’s a lot of pressure on women to stay silent. That makes it harder to get over - having to cope in silence on your own - but also as a society it allows the stigma to persist - ‘What were you wearing? Were you drinking?’
“I considered not reporting it because I had gone to the bar for a glass of wine. But that is a normal thing to do.
I want to be able to go to the bar for a glass of wine and not be attacked. All the focus is on the victim and stigmatising them when it should be on the perpetrator.
“We need to believe women more. Women need a voice. Women need to be treated better.”