‘I am more than evidence, more than a witness, more than a product of rape. I am not your shame,’ daughter says
“I am talking to you because an adult raped a child,” Daisy tells The Independent. “That is the reason I am alive.”
Daisy, now 45, was conceived after her father raped her 13-year-old mother back in the mid-1970s. Almost half a century on from the incident, Daisy’s 74-year-old father, Carvel Bennett, has now been sentenced to 11 years in prison, as well being condemned to a lifetime on the Sex Offenders’ Register, on Tuesday.
Daisy, who did not want her surname used, says her father’s conviction, which was handed down at Birmingham Crown Court, is the first case of its kind. She says it follows on from a decade of her seeking to obtain justice yet being relentlessly ignored and dismissed by the police and other public agencies.
“It was horrendous,” she adds. “As a black transracially adopted rape conceived woman, I’m very much marginalised and easily ignored. How many people think about whether they would keep a child if they are raped?”
Daisy, who was born in Birmingham, was taken into care days after her mother gave birth. At seven-months-old, she was adopted into a white family. Reading a statement in court this week, she said: “To know I’m, for some, the embodiment of one of the worst things to happen, to be pregnant by your perpetrator – to find out what happened to my mother – was horrific”.
She added: “I am more than evidence, more than a witness, more than a product of rape. I am not your shame.”
In an extensive interview with The Independent, Daisy notes that she thought “something was amiss” when she first learnt the age difference between her mother and father when was 12 or 13.
But it was not until years later when she was 18 and read her social services records that she was told she was conceived through rape.
“I thought my birth mother wouldn’t want to see me,” Daisy says. “I thought I might be rejected by her. I was on and off searching for her for 18 months. I met her after two years.”
While Daisy’s birth mother was just 13-years-old when she was born, her birth father was 15 years older and was 28. The files from 1975 declare: “The matter was investigated by police but never brought to court.”
Kate Ellis, a solicitor at Centre for Women’s Justice, a leading charity which supported Daisy’s case, said: “We are pleased to see Daisy formally commended today, both by the prosecution and by a Crown Court Judge, for her tireless determination to see justice done, even in the most personally difficult of circumstances.
“To achieve this outcome both Daisy and her birth mother have overcome extraordinary odds and a series of shocking historic failures by all of the authorities that were supposed to protect them.”
In a rare twist, Prosecuting Counsel Mr Glenser asked the judge to issue a “formal commendation” to Daisy, saying “this prosecution would not have taken place” without the “grit” and “dogged determination” Daisy had displayed while pursuing justice.
“She has met many closed doors,” Judge Martin Hurst chimed in. “The pursuit of justice must be commended and I do commend Daisy for taking those steps”.
Daisy is now fiercely campaigning for women and men who are conceived as a result of rape to be formally recognised as victims of crime so they can receive proper victim support.
“I also want specialist support services for all people impacted by rape conception, whether that is a sibling or a grand-parent, adopted parent or a foster parent,” she says. “I’m absolutely overjoyed that finally after 46 years there has been justice against a child rapist.”
Daisy said she is massively proud of her birth mother for showing “courage and bravery” as she urged the police and social services to apologise for their failings towards her and her mother.
She said being conceived through rape has had repercussions on all elements of her mental health – adding that she does not want other people in her position to endure what she has experienced.
“I don’t want anyone else who was rape conceived to go through what I did in seeking justice for themselves and their mothers,” Daisy adds. “I hope my case has illustrated that justice can be achieved. It is a milestone case. Rape conception is one of the last taboos within violence against women and girls. Nobody wants to know. There is little or no attention to the child conceived and the potential lifelong support needed.”
Daisy tracked down her father – with DNA tests on both herself and her parents then revealing Bennett was her birth father.
Directly addressing her birth father in court, Daisy said: “Carvel Bennett you have caused total carnage. Your act of violence decimated any potential relationship between my birth mother and me, because you chose to rape a child.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the Victims’ Code stipulates people are able to access support if they are impacted by a crime – “including those conceived through rape”.
“Supporting victims of sexual violence remains a priority for this government,” the representative added. “The entire criminal justice system’s response to rape is being transformed through our Rape Action Plan and an extra £51m is being invested in specialist support services.”