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Rape allegation 'destroyed my life'
THE allegations against him have been thrown out, his accuser is in jail, but charity founder Will Clark has to live with the consequences of being falsely accused of rape.
The man who made the allegation, 26-year-old Shane Peake, posed as a vulnerable 17-year-old who had been thrown out of his South Yorkshire home after he told his family he was gay.
Wiltshire Council placed him in supported lodgings, and Mr Clark, who ran Salisbury charity Rainbow Rooms, supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people, held out a helping hand.
But when he began to have doubts about the young man's story and questioned him, Peake accused him of rape.
The allegations were false and Mr Clark was never charged. Peake was later discovered to have used several aliases and to have stolen from both Mr Clark and the people who had taken him into their home.
On Friday Peake was jailed for four-and-a-half years after admitting perverting the course of justice, theft, burglary and fraud.
But for Mr Clark, who lives in Salisbury with his partner of 17 years and ran Rainbow Rooms for six years, the sentence does not mean the end of his ordeal.
“I went to court because I thought it might give me some form of closure,” he said. “But it wasn’t like that.
“I had to hear it all again and go through it all again, and at the end it was only one door of many that closed – and it is just closed, it isn’t locked.”
Mr Clark, 43, reached out a helping hand to someone he thought was a troubled teenager and says the consequences of that action have destroyed his life “beyond repair”.
The support of his family and friends has been unwavering but the accusation against him plunged him into despair and led to him trying to take his own life.
“I couldn’t believe people when they said they didn’t believe it,” he explains.
“I didn’t want anyone near me. I couldn’t bear to be around people and I couldn’t bear anyone touching me.
“Everything felt dirty. It wasn’t rational – but I wasn’t rational.
“It is hard to believe that anyone can do something like this to another person.”
Mr Clark is now on medication for depression and is seeing a counsellor.
The Rainbow Rooms charity he started to give support and advice to young people is closed, and he sees no possibility of it re-opening.
“Everything was tarnished by what he said I did,” he said. “He has destroyed not just my reputation but the reputation of the charity.
“Everything the charity was and all it did in the community has gone. It is such a huge loss.”
In the time it was running, the Rainbow Rooms website had more than 1.3 million hits, and when the allegation was made against him Mr Clark was in the midst of organising Pride of Wiltshire, a festival celebrating diversity, as well as looking for a permanent home for the charity in Salisbury where young people could have a safe place to meet.
“It was a great thing for Salisbury to have it based here,” he said. “All the people it helped and everyone it would have helped in the future have lost that support.
“It wasn’t easy for us to find funding before; it would be impossible now.”
At the moment he says life is just about getting through each day and hoping things will get better, but he believes the accusations made against him have changed him forever.
“I used to give people the benefit of the doubt,” he says, “but I can’t do that anymore.
“I get panic attacks when I’m in large groups of people and I can’t be alone in a one-to-one situation with someone without thinking about what they might say about me.
“I have no confidence in myself and I have no trust in other people.
“I’m simply not the same person that I was before.”
* WILTSHIRE Council said that every precaution possible is taken when dealing with vulnerable young people and that those involved in their care are always trained and vetted.
A spokesman said: “Firstly, we need to highlight this is a very unusual set of circumstances.
“Wiltshire Council’s priority is to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities are protected.
"Our duty is to offer young adults supported lodgings, which is assessed and run by people who have had safeguarding training and are experienced in supporting those in difficult situations.”
Mr Clark said he hopes lessons will be learned from his experience, both by the authorities and by organisations working with the public.
“Organisations like mine that only want to help people need to be aware,” he said. “They need to make sure they have the protocols in place to make checks, and that they protect themselves and the people they care for.
“You aren’t doing someone an injustice by checking up on them – you are protecting yourself and you are protecting them. One of the most devastating things is that the council does such a good job in supporting so many young people and people shouldn’t be put off becoming carers.
"It is so rare for something like this to happen.”
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