A woman who at 13-years-old was gang-raped by her friend and his pal, has revealed the heartbreaking details in the hopes of encouraging other survivors to speak up.
Claudia Barber, 21, of Middlesborough, was lured to a deserted woodland and attacked by Brandon Bowmaker, 23, along with Callum Dowson, 24, in 2012.
Last year, the pair were finally found guilty of rape and each jailed for four years.
Now, bank worker Claudia has waived her right to anonymity to speak out, in the hope of motivating other survivors of sexual abuse to seek justice.
The attack really affected my life,’ Claudia admitted. ‘But I’m taking back control. I’m glad they’re behind bars, although I don’t think the sentence was long enough.
I want survivors of sexual crimes to know they’re not alone and to seek justice like I did.
In 2012, a 13-year-old Claudia, who suffered low self-esteem after being taunted by classmates about her weight, met Brandon Bowmaker, then aged 15, on a double date.
‘When Brandon showed me interest, I felt really flattered,’ Claudia recalled. ‘We had sex that day as I was keen to impress.’
Three weeks later the pair agreed to meet, but Bowmaker had brought along a friend, Callum Dowson.
Claudia said: ‘When I met Callum, I thought he looked chavvy, but he seemed friendly. Brandon told me we were walking Callum home first so we could be alone together.’
The boys led Claudia through a secluded residential area until they reached thick trees.
There Bowmaker told Claudia: ‘Have sex with us or we’ll leave you here.’ She refused and walked away.
Claudia said: ‘I was stunned. Then Brandon burst out laughing and said he was only joking. I felt better and we started chatting about school and music.’
Evening arrived and Bowmaker repeated his threat to Claudia about having sex with him and Dowson.
She says: ‘This time, I realised that he wasn’t joking. Suddenly he was on top of me, pinning me to the ground.
‘He ripped my shorts down and raped me. He told me to act like I was enjoying it. I hoped Callum would help me but he had his hand down his tracksuit bottoms.
‘Afterwards, before I had a chance to get to my feet, Callum was on top of me. They took it in turns raping me, several times.
‘Then they left me on the ground, covered in dirt and ran off. I put my clothes back on and followed the street lights until I reached the road.’
Claudia caught the bus home and sobbed herself to sleep, unable to tell her father Richard, 52, a bricklayer, about the attack.
In the weeks that followed, she self-harmed and thought about suicide.
She said: ‘My dad noticed something was wrong and tried to speak to me. But I just couldn’t tell him because I was ashamed.’
Two years later in 2014, Bowmaker messaged Claudia on Facebook asking if him and his friend could have sex with her. She ignored the message and blocked him.
But a year later in September 2015, Claudia spotted Dowson on her way home from college, and it brought back all the memories she’d been trying to bury.
She says: ‘I told my dad that I’d been raped. Dad wanted to call the police, but I felt too frightened, so he didn’t.’
Under too much stress, Claudia rejected her offer to study medicine at Newcastle University. Instead, she worked as a waitress so she could save up to go travelling.
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At her new workplace she met chef, Kyle Barber, 31, and the pair soon became a couple with Claudia confiding in him about the attack.
‘He told me to go to the police, but I was worried they wouldn’t believe me,’ Claudia explained.
Eventually Claudia moved in with Kyle. But one day in February 2017, Bowmaker appeared at the bar while Claudia was working.
She said: ‘I recognised him immediately. I asked a colleague to serve him while I hid in the back room.
‘After my shift, I went to a nearby nightclub to work, but Brandon appeared in there too. I broke down. Thankfully, the bouncers removed him.’
Eventually Claudia’s partner convinced her to report Bowmaker and Dowson to the police. So she made a statement and they were arrested.
In August 2018, Brandon Bowmaker, of Woodhouse Road, and Callum Dowson, of Venables Road, both from Guisborough, North Yorkshire, denied rape at Teesside Crown Court.
They both claimed the sex was consensual.
Claudia says: ‘Brandon admitted lying to the police by telling them he didn’t know me. So I gave evidence from behind a screen. Thankfully the jury found them both guilty. I almost cried with relief.’
Both men were sentenced to four years in jail.
Judge Sean Morris, sentencing, said: ‘This has probably been one of the most difficult cases I have dealt with in 10 years sitting as a circuit judge.’
Addressing the defendants, he said: ‘You are men now. All three of you as the pre-sentence report describes, were children.’
Claudia says: ‘I spent years being haunted by what they did to me. Finally I can move on with my life. Kyle and I are now married and we’ve bought a house.
‘I’m working to help other victims of sexual assault and rape speak to police through a charity I’ve recently set up called Beyond Reasonable Doubt.
‘I hope my story will encourage others who’ve been through abuse to report what happened to them and achieve justice like I did.’
Credits: Daily Mail