A woman conceived through rape who campaigned for nine years to bring her father to justice has won a prestigious award.
The 45-year-old can only be referred to as Daisy to protect the identity of her birth mother, who was raped 46 years ago at the age of 13 by Carvel Bennett, now 74. He was convicted in July 2021 at Birmingham crown court and sentenced to 11 years in jail.
Daisy was awarded the Emma Humphreys memorial prize, which recognises women who make outstanding contributions towards ending male violence. She was announced as the winner on Sunday at conference in Portsmouth for FiLiA – a female-led volunteer organisation working for the liberation of women.
Daisy, who is black, believes that one of the reasons why it took so long to bring Bennett to justice was because of her and her birth mother’s skin colour. Although her birth mother named Bennett after she became pregnant with Daisy after the rape, no action was taken by the authorities to charge him. Daisy, who was adopted as a baby, spent nine years campaigning to get Bennett prosecuted after tracking him down herself.
“I truly believe racism was a huge factor both in my birth mother’s treatment in the mid-1970s, but also in my treatment by the authorities,” she said.
Initially, her birth mother did not want to pursue a prosecution against the man who raped her when she was a child. Police told Daisy that even though she described herself as “a walking crime scene”, as her DNA evidence confirmed Bennett as her father, it would not be possible to proceed with a case against him without her birth mother providing evidence. Ultimately she decided that she would testify against Bennett and the rape conviction was secured.
Daisy is now campaigning for a change in the law so that children conceived through rape can be recognised as secondary victims of the crime along with the primary victim, their mothers.
She said she did not know she had been nominated for Sunday’s award and was thrilled to discover she had won it.
“It’s a real privilege and an honour,” she said. “There is still so much silence on the issue of rape conception. It appears to be one of the last taboos in relation to violence against women and girls. For those of us who were rape-conceived, it’s a huge struggle to come to terms with your paternity and in turn one’s sense of self and identity. We are left to carry the shame and stigma of the act of violence that created us.”
Government data released in 2020 shows that 900 women were forced to disclose that they had children conceived through rape in order to access benefits beyond the two-child benefit cap.
Along with her campaign for children conceived through rape to be recognised as secondary victims, Daisy is asking the authorities to consider victimless prosecutions in cases where the victim may be too traumatised to testify or may have died or disappeared, but where there is DNA evidence that could be used to convict the rapist. She is also calling for better treatment and support from the justice system for children conceived through rape.