Layla’s story: jailed after reporting a sexual assault

 

Sara Ibrahim says that since the day her little sister Layla was sent to prison, her family has been faced with a simple choice: “Do we give up and just get on with our lives, or do we clear her name? And we’ve decided if it takes the rest of our lives, that’s what we’ll do – we’ll clear her name.”

It was a couple of weeks after she reported being attacked in the early hours of a cold January morning in 2009 that Layla Ibrahim, then 21, noticed a change in the attitude of the police. Yes, the police had documented the injuries to the back of her head and breasts, the black eye, the bleeding from her vagina. They had listened closely as she described the two strangers who attacked her, how the main perpetrator had worn a Nike hoodie, how she thought she had temporarily lost consciousness after being knocked to the ground, how she had felt a “thud” in her vagina but had no clear recollection of what had happened.

The police had seemed sympathetic as she explained how she tried to fend off her attackers with a pair of blunt scissors, and how the second assailant grabbed hold of them and started cutting her hair. Layla told them how eventually she had made her way home, running and bawling, almost feral with fear. The case quickly became high profile, as the local newspaper reported that the police had set up an incident room staffed by 30-40 officers and described it as “one of the city’s biggest manhunts”.

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