The first time Daisy found herself in the same room as both of her birth parents, her father was being tried for raping her mother.

She had always known that she was adopted. Yet it was only when she turned 18 that she discovered the true, terrible circumstances of her conception.

Her birth mother was just 13 when she was raped by 29-year-old Carvel Bennett — a fact known to social services and reported to police in 1975, though no action was taken.

It is only thanks to Daisy’s dogged determination that Bennett was finally sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for his crime at Birmingham Crown Court in 2021. Though it may sound like the script for a courtroom drama, sadly Daisy, now 47, has been denied her Hollywood ending. Her birth mother, re-traumatised by the court case, no longer wants anything to do with her.

The first time Daisy found herself in the same room as both of her birth parents, her father was being tried for raping her mother

The first time Daisy found herself in the same room as both of her birth parents, her father was being tried for raping her mother

‘There were no hugs or celebrations when he was finally convicted,’ says Daisy, wistfully.

‘I told my birth mother how proud I was of her on the day she gave evidence to the court but after that a message came through, via other family members, asking me to stay away.

‘That was devastating, and I really wish she hadn’t had to relive her ordeal, but I don’t regret pursuing the case. The sense of injustice was too strong and the evidence compelling — I’m living, breathing proof of the crime he had committed.’

It was the painful knowledge that she — like any child conceived from rape — was also a victim of her father that propelled Daisy to ensure he was finally put behind bars. Yet had her birth mother refused to co-operate, or passed away, she would have been denied recourse to justice. Even now, she is entitled to no state-funded legal or therapeutic support.

While exact figures are hard to come by, research by the Centre for Women’s Justice, a legal charity which supported Daisy’s case, estimates between 2,080 and 3,356 babies were conceived through rape in 2021 in England and Wales alone. Of women who conceive through sexual violence, around 30 per cent opt to have abortions, while around another 30 per cent give the child up for adoption.

In July, Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, told the House of Commons that 1,830 mothers in the UK had declared ‘a child born of rape’ in official child benefit forms submitted to the Department for Work and Pensions, during the previous year.

‘That’s a lot of people living in pain and shame through absolutely no fault of their own,’ says Daisy, a social worker. ‘I’m legally forced to hide my identity publicly because my birth mother has the right to anonymity, as a rape victim. It makes me feel as if my very existence is still shrouded in shame.’

Daisy tried to spare her mother the anguish of a court appearance by arguing that, given sex with a child under 16 is statutory rape, her DNA alone should have been enough to secure an ‘evidence-based conviction’. But she was told repeatedly by police officers that this is not the case.

A year after the conviction, this clever, articulate woman, who has seen ‘very dark days’ and years of therapy, is fighting to see others conceived through rape treated as ‘secondary victims’ — enabling them to become complainants in criminal investigations.

And her efforts have not been in vain. She has now won the backing of the Commons Justice Committee for the introduction of Daisy’s Law, which would do just that, and provide them with access to both legal and psychological support. In November, she appeared before MPs and peers to secure further support, and is now waiting on the Government’s response.

‘My whole life has been determined by the crime he committed — I wouldn’t be here now if a 29-year-old man hadn’t raped a 13-year-old child,’ says Daisy.

Yet she has been treated in law as a mere ‘product’ of rape, a term she calls ‘insulting and hateful’.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, told the House of Commons that 1,830 mothers in the UK had declared 'a child born of rape' in official child benefit forms

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, told the House of Commons that 1,830 mothers in the UK had declared ‘a child born of rape’ in official child benefit forms

‘We need a change in that law to ensure those of us born in these circumstances are given all the support we deserve.’

Daisy was 13 when her adoptive parents first let her see the social services documents that showed her mother was just 14 when she was born — and her birth father ‘between 30 and 35’. It wasn’t until she reached adulthood that it began to dawn on her that her conception was a crime scene.

Further documents referred to her traumatic start as ‘sexual intercourse without consent’ but stopped short of calling it by its criminal name: rape.

She was 20, and at university, when she traced her biological mother and exchanged letters and photographs with her before going to visit.

‘I remember stepping off the train and my birth mum and I looked so alike, even down to our hairstyles. Her youngest child, who was only a toddler, was very confused,’ recalls Daisy. ‘He was looking from one of us to the other and saying: ‘Mummy? Mummy?’

This was no big emotional reunion. ‘I think we hugged later on but she’s not outwardly affectionate. I guess she learnt early in life to suppress her emotions.’

It transpired that Daisy’s mum was seven months pregnant before she told anyone she was expecting, meaning she missed out on most of her pre-natal care and abortion was no longer an option. It was also the first her family knew of the rape. Although social services were involved, no one has been able to explain why no police action was taken against Bennett.

In her mid-20s, Daisy plucked up courage to send her birth mother a letter asking about her biological father. She pointed out that if she wanted to pursue a prosecution, her existence would be irrefutable DNA evidence.

Unhappy at the prospect, her mother asked her to forget the idea. However, ten years later, in 2012, when there was much talk in the media about historical child sex abuse cases, Daisy decided to pursue her father in the hope of bringing an evidence-based prosecution, sparing her mother a court ordeal.

The Centre for Women's Justice estimates between 2,080 and 3,356 babies were conceived through rape in 2021 in England and Wales alone (stock image)

The Centre for Women’s Justice estimates between 2,080 and 3,356 babies were conceived through rape in 2021 in England and Wales alone (stock image)

She requested more information about her birth family and, after finally finding an address for her father, knocked on his door in 2015, wearing a hidden camera.

‘My boyfriend at the time went with me, thankfully, as my heart was pounding,’ she says. ‘I said: “I think I’m your daughter” and he sort of smiled and invited us in.’

When she asked Bennett if he’d had sex with her mother, his reply sickened her: ‘Just because you have sex with someone doesn’t mean you make a baby.’

Daisy was determined he would face justice, but it was another six years — by which time her mother agreed to give evidence via video — before the case came to trial.

Bennett pleaded not guilty. Yet so compelling was the evidence, it took the jury just two hours to find him guilty.

‘The conviction was 46 years too late — and the result of huge courage on my mother’s part and nine years of hard work from me — and my overriding feeling was utter relief,’ says Daisy. ‘His sentence was longer because I had been born as a result of his crime. Finally, justice had been done.’

But the consequences of Bennett’s crime on Daisy’s childhood — and the rest of her life — can never be undone.

Although she enjoyed many of the privileges of middle-class life with her adoptive parents — a lovely home in a village in the South-East and annual holidays in the Mediterranean — Daisy says that, partly because they are white and she is black, she always felt like an outsider.

‘Until I met my birth mother I’d never seen someone who looks like me,’ she says. ‘I lost touch with my genealogical links, cultural links, community links, everything. My whole life was determined by his act of violence.’

And while many people who are adopted long for their own children, Daisy couldn’t contemplate it. ‘If my own beginnings hadn’t been so messy and complicated, I would probably have felt differently,’ she says.

Rachel*, 34, is all too familiar with the consequences of this most inauspicious start in life. Her mother was 20 when she was raped, at gunpoint, by a friend of her older sister in his flat.

Although she discovered she was pregnant six weeks later, she was too scared to report the crime to police — and her family, when they discovered she was pregnant a few months into the pregnancy, ‘brushed the circumstances under the rug’.

Rachel’s mother decided to keep her, and loved her, but couldn’t protect her from the trauma of discovering she was conceived from rape.

‘I found out in the most awful way,’ says Rachel. ‘I was 14 and arguing with my mum about something trivial when I blurted out: ‘You never tell me where my dad is! You probably pushed him away with your nagging!’ And she just screamed at me: ‘I was raped!’

‘It felt like time stood still. I couldn’t speak. All I wanted was to be alone to process this horrific news.’

It was years before her mum discussed it with her again. ‘That’s when I found out it happened at gunpoint.’

Rachel’s mum has gone on to become a successful lawyer and, acutely aware of how difficult it would be to prove, all these years later, that the sex was unconsensual, will not contemplate legal action against her attacker.

Rachel has enough information, if she wanted, to trace her biological father, whose name was not included on her birth certificate. If Daisy’s Law comes into effect, she would be able to explore the possibility of a criminal prosecution being brought against him, with her as DNA evidence, even if her mother does not want to give evidence.

‘A mother’s stress can impact a baby from the moment of conception and my mother is still traumatised,’ says Rachel. ‘Having a genetic link to someone who could do something so horrific has created an identity crisis. We’re both victims of this crime.’

Suffering with depression and anxiety for years, she has long self-medicated with alcohol. ‘How I came into the world has negatively impacted my whole life,’ she says. Although she would love to have children, she adds: ‘I struggle to trust men, which means I’ve never had a serious relationship.’

Such fears of long-term effects plague Susan*, 52, who gave up her career as a nurse to become legal guardian to her granddaughter, now aged six, who was also conceived in rape.

Her daughter was 18 and living alone in London in early 2016 when a friend asked if her uncle, who was about to be released from prison, could stay at her flat until he found somewhere more permanent. The ex-convict held her hostage, raping her repeatedly, for a month.

Although she spoke to her family on the phone, she was too terrified to tell them what was happening. It was only when one morning she escaped in her pyjamas and fled to a petrol station, where police were called, that Susan learned of her daughter’s horrific ordeal.

Her attacker was arrested but claimed they had a consensual sexual relationship and denied keeping her hostage. He was released as the Crown Prosecution Service did not believe there was enough evidence to secure a conviction. This was despite police, who were aware of his criminal history, warning that he was such a ‘dangerous man’ that they installed panic buttons in Susan’s home, while her daughter was moved to a safe house.

Susan’s daughter discovered she was pregnant while being examined by a doctor at the rape centre where she was taken.

Too traumatised to contemplate a termination, she decided to keep the baby, but began experiencing seizures and self-medicating with alcohol and cannabis after the birth.

Susan stepped in before social services took the baby into care, and, following several failed attempts for her daughter to resume parental care, has been her granddaughter’s special guardian for three years.

‘My daughter is deeply traumatised — tragically, her own daughter represented something very unpleasant that had happened to her,’ says Susan.

‘Having been born from that, my granddaughter is traumatised, too. She has meltdowns where she screams and can be aggressive and has a condition called RAS — reflex anoxic seizures — whereby in times of sudden stress, pain or fright she can collapse and temporarily stop breathing while her heart rate slows down and has even stopped on terrifying occasions.

‘There is a lot of evidence about the impact on neurodevelopment in a baby when a mother experiences a stressful pregnancy, followed by poor attachment in their early months, and the impact is ongoing.

‘Although she hasn’t yet asked about her ‘father’ I know the day will come when I have to break the terrible news of how she came into the world.’

Susan’s granddaughter occasionally still sees her mum — who retains parental responsibility as that would only be rescinded were she adopted. And as a ‘looked after child’, she has access to the Adoption Support Fund for any therapeutic help she might need.

Were greater provisions made under Daisy’s Law for children conceived in such bleak circumstances, her granddaughter would be entitled to compensation and ongoing financial and therapeutic state support.

Hearing stories like Susan’s helps spur Daisy on.

‘The judge presiding over my mother’s rapist’s trial told me ‘I see you as as much of a victim of this crime as your birth mother’, words I’d waited decades to hear,’ she says. ‘The next step now must be a recognition of this in law.’

  • To support the Daisy’s Law campaign visit

* Some names have been changed


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