My DNA Showed That My Father Was My Mother’s Rapist

Photo by Jordan Tiberio.
Daisy (whose surname is omitted) made history when her DNA was used to get her birth father convicted of raping her mother in an unprecedented court case earlier this month. Now, she is fighting for rape-conceived children to be formally recognised as victims by law.
"I don’t know that it has completely sunk in," Daisy, now 45, says of the moment she achieved criminal justice for the lifetime of trauma she has suffered. 
Daisy’s mother was just 13 when she was raped. Daisy's biological father, Carvel Bennett, was a "family friend". He was 28 when he attacked her mother as she babysat his children. Daisy was conceived during the rape. She was adopted as a baby. 
Her birth mother, who has chosen to remain anonymous, revealed that she had gone to West Midlands Police in the 1970s about the assault but the case was closed without charge. Bennett later confessed that the three officers who questioned him laughed as he gave his account of the crime. They made no further inquiries.
After years of campaigning, the investigation was reopened by the police when the BBC highlighted her story in 2019. 
A jury at Birmingham Crown Court took less than two hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict. Results obtained using Daisy's DNA showed that the defendant, now 74, was 22 million times more likely to be her father than any other unknown Afro-Caribbean man unrelated to him. He was sentenced to 11 years behind bars. 
The case was unprecedented because it was brought about by Daisy – a child conceived of rape. Her DNA was used as forensic evidence to convict her birth father. Historic files made by public agencies since she was adopted were used to corroborate the claims.
Every possible barrier stood in Daisy’s way and she overcame them all. It followed a decade of tireless campaigning. The refusal to be silenced. The tenacity to keep fighting in a system rigged against her – a Black, transracially adopted woman who was conceived during the rape of a child. 
Facing her biological father in court as he was sentenced, Daisy gave a victim impact statement. 
"The pain you have caused is immeasurable," she told him.
"To know I exist because you chose to rape a child, to know you are the sum, the embodiment, of one of the worst things that can happen to someone, to be pregnant by your perpetrator.
"I am more than evidence, I am more than a witness, I am more than a product of rape.
"I am not your shame, and I will not carry the horror of what you chose to do."
"I was elated, overcome with emotion. The relief, the absolute sheer relief. I cannot tell you how exhausted I am. Insomnia is a friend of mine," Daisy tells Refinery29. 
Her victory could have a wider impact as it has set a precedent for other rape-conceived people, like her, to be treated as victims by law. Yet despite this incredible achievement, her fight is not over. Not by a long shot.
"I’m a social worker, I know how to navigate the system. I can say now too that I also know what it is to be traumatised by a system," she says.

I am not your shame, and I will not carry the horror of what you chose to do.

from Daisy's statement addressing her biological father in court
Male violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it never makes a solitary impact. Ripples of trauma are felt through siblings, families, friends and communities for generations after an attack. There are often hidden victims: the children in households where there is domestic abuse, the wives of terrorists, the families of those who have been raped and, as Daisy has highlighted, the children conceived of rape.
Daisy felt those ripples early on in her life – and continues to feel them to this day. She was just seven days old when she was separated from her teenage mother. She was 10 days old when she was placed into foster care. She was later adopted by an all-white family, in an all-white village near a very privileged, all-white university city. As a Black child from Birmingham, she couldn’t have felt more alienated.
"I was 13 before I was educated in school with another Black child," Daisy remembers. "There was nobody at all reflecting my ethnicity in my school or in my local community." 
"My parents at the time, in the 1970s, had very little guidance about the trauma of adoption, attachment, identity," she continues, "let alone the need to promote a child’s cultural and ethnic identity, so it was a real struggle."
"As a child I didn’t want attention. Going out, I felt like I had to wear a coat of armour. I had to constantly justify my existence. People would ask: ‘Why is your sister white? Why is your mum white?’ Constantly. So I had to be hypervigilant all the time."
When Daisy was growing up her adoptive parents showed her a document that revealed the ages of her birth mother and father.
"I remember distinctly thinking, Oh my god, imagine being pregnant at school. I thought there was quite an age difference between my parents but my mind didn’t go to rape straightaway," she explains.
It was when she reached the age of 18 and requested her social files that she discovered she had been conceived by rape. Daisy says the revelation did not come as a surprise to her but it was nevertheless a shock.
"I’ve never taken on what he’s done," she says. "I’ve not internalised that he did this awful thing so therefore I must be awful."
When she discovered what had happened, Daisy’s main concern was whether or not her mother would want to know her. 
She explains: "Would she even want to meet me and have that reminder of what she went through staring back at her?"
"I remember thinking she could be dead," she continues, her voice wavering. "Or dealing with a life of substance abuse. It is so difficult navigating those relationships when there is trauma involved." 
Despite her fears, Daisy began tracing her birth mother when she was 20, with the help of her adoptive father. She found her around 18 months later and they met a handful of times.
"Things got complicated when I started to ask about my birth father," Daisy says. "I had a lot of guilt over that. Am I re-traumatising this woman? Our relationship hasn’t really progressed much past that point but, ultimately, I think it is everybody’s right to know who their birth parents are."

I am living proof of a rape and I have files stuffed with evidence but that [didn't] count for a long time. It doesn't make sense. It shouldn't be this hard.

It wasn’t until 2012's Operation Yewtree – the high-profile police investigation into sexual abuse claims made against TV personalities such as Jimmy Savile – that Daisy even considered the possibility of convicting her birth father. 
"Child sexual abuse was finally being taken seriously and rather naively I thought, Surely someone will take me seriously? I am living evidence, I am DNA proof that a man raped a child. Plus, I had all these notes from public bodies at the time," she explains.
Daisy wrote to MPs, solicitors, courts and contacted the police. Nothing happened. No one would investigate her claims without her mother’s involvement. Her mother didn’t want to be involved and nobody would consider that, perhaps, she did not want to relive the damage done when she had tried – and failed – to bring Bennett to justice in the 1970s.
"I am living proof of a rape and I have files stuffed with evidence but that [didn’t] count for a long time," Daisy says. "It doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be this hard."
"It chips away at your mental health, being told repeatedly that you are not the victim. I could give you so many reasons why I am a victim of this man. I don’t want anybody else to go through what I have been through."
After repeatedly offering her DNA and case files to the police as evidence, Daisy decided to take matters into her own hands. At the time, she was driven by curiosity. Little did she know that she would end up delivering the perpetrator to the police herself. 
In 2015, thanks to hundreds of hours of research, she found out where Carvel Bennett lived. She strapped on a hidden camera and set off to meet him in person.
"I felt like I’d been chasing this ghost that is dominating my life. I just needed to meet him," she explains.
"So I went to his home. As I was sitting in the car, waiting, I saw children everywhere, all up and down the road. It was so chilling to me, knowing what I knew about the man who has been able to live on that street undetected."
"I saw him arrive and I knocked on the door. I said: 'I think I might be your daughter'."
"He said: 'Oh, come in'."
Daisy’s hidden camera recorded all the audio from their encounter. It also caught him smiling as he opened the door to her. "I think he knew who I was," she says. "I think he knew I was hunting around. It was probably really shocking, this child who you made from raping another child has turned up on your doorstep. The ghost of your past has come back to haunt you."
Seizing her chance for an admission, she boldly asked him: 
"Did you have sex with my mother, because if you didn’t, my files are wrong."
He replied: "Just because you have sex doesn’t mean you make a baby."
"I left, took his number, said: 'Thank you for your time, goodbye.' It was absolutely insane. It was so hard to get your head around. The first time meeting your genetic parent, knowing that he is a rapist… I just thought, What must he be thinking? Was he thinking there are other victims who could be turning up on his doorstep like me, saying: 'Hi, I think you’re my dad'?"

As a Black, rape-conceived woman, no one wanted to listen to me. They thought it would be very easy to quiet me down. People would be speaking for me, or just ignoring me. But I just thought, I've not fought this hard to go away now.

Despite her video evidence, the location of the perpetrator, her case files and her DNA, West Midlands Police refused to act without a formal statement from Daisy’s mother. But Daisy would not be beaten.
"As a Black, rape-conceived woman, no one really wanted to listen to me. They thought it would be very easy to quiet me down. People would be speaking for me, or just ignoring me," she recalls. "I think they thought I was uppity. They thought I was vexatious. But I just thought, I’ve not fought this hard to go away now."
Three years later, in 2018, she made a breakthrough. She sent a letter about her case to BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire show. Producers took her very seriously and an eight-minute video was made in which an actor recounted her experience of life as a rape-conceived child – and her struggle to have her case recognised by the police. It was followed by a discussion between MP Jess Phillips and Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice who would go on to advise Daisy during her trial. Public support for Daisy began to mount.
The turning point came in 2020 when her mother decided to make a formal statement. Together with Daisy’s DNA evidence and files, the police finally charged Bennett. 
Bennett pleaded not guilty in court appearances leading up to trial in 2020 and 2021, despite the evidence stacked against him. He argued in his defence that Daisy’s mother – a 13-year-old child in his care – had seduced him.
In August 2021, Daisy and her mother finally had their day in court.
"Right up until the last minute, I had to advocate for myself," Daisy says. "I’d made my intention to read my own victim statement out in court clear but my prosecuting QC had to ask the judge for special permission."
"It was just fantastic," she says of her moment on the stand, watching her father in the dock, his face covered by a mask and glasses. 
"It was hard to read his facial expressions but, finally, I got the chance to vocalise my full experience – all the trauma I’d faced – in public and get validation. It was amazing to be able to do that."
Hearing her mother’s statement, read out by the QC, was an incredibly moving experience too. 
"It was heartbreaking. As a social worker, I am used to horrendous disclosures of sexual abuse. But to hear of what happened to this 13-year-old Black girl, picturing all the horror that happened to her on top of that horror, it was harrowing."
Bennett was sentenced to 11 years in jail for his crimes. For Daisy, the triumph was bittersweet. 
"I just thought, He’s 74. So much damage has been done. That should have happened 45 years ago
"If it had happened all that time ago, we would have known he was a child sex offender. It is highly unlikely that child abusers only strike once. Who knows how many others might have been saved from him."
Daisy believes her victory should have been possible without the need for her mother’s involvement. Her quest now is to make sure no other person conceived through rape who wishes to seek justice faces the same barriers that she did.
"There should be an option for children conceived through rape," she explains, "an alternative prosecution using DNA and other documented evidence from the police and from social care. We should be treated and supported as victims of rape."
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, rape is legally defined as a male person "intentionally" penetrating the vagina, anus or mouth of another person "with his penis" without consent. 
When judges are sentencing perpetrators, they refer to guidance on a number of circumstances that suggest whether they should increase the severity of punishment they hand down to convicted attackers. The rape of a child – as in the case of Daisy’s birth mother – is one such circumstance. As is a pregnancy as the result of rape. There is no formal recognition of the child conceived through rape as a victim in the same way as the mother is recognised.
The Ministry of Justice has already responded to Daisy’s campaign, stating that the Victims’ Code states that 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," a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said. "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."
"It was news to me and news to my solicitor," Daisy says incredulously of her reaction when she read the statement.
Sure enough, the current Victims' Code, which was updated in April 2021, stipulates that "all those impacted by a crime" are considered to be victims and should be provided with the full support the government and public agencies can offer. However Daisy’s testimony suggests that this stipulation may not be working in practice. 
This is why she is so keen to get an apology from West Midlands Police – as well as other public agencies involved in her case – who she claims were negligent with her birth mother in the 1970s and negligent with Daisy in her pursuit of justice.
"There’s the huge victory in the conviction but the other people who are accountable are social care and West Midlands Police, and that’s where my next focus is on now," Daisy says. "There needs to be public scrutiny, there needs to be accountability."
Refinery29 contacted West Midlands Police for comment. They did not recognise Daisy as a victim and referred only to her birth mother in their response. 
"We met with the rape victim on Wednesday (11 Aug) and discussed the case, including media coverage. She remains really clear that she does not want to waive her right to anonymity and does not want us to enter into a dialogue about her case in public," a spokesperson said.
"We must respect the victim's wishes."
You can read Daisy’s statement to the court (published with permission) in full below: 
Carvel Bennett, you have caused total carnage, your act of violence decimated any potential relationship between my birth mother and I because you chose to rape a child.

You made the choice to rape a child, the daughter of your friend, what a betrayal of trust. You were never held to account by those who were supposed to protect my birth mother and other children. No one sought justice for the harm you caused.

You have evaded justice for 45 years. You have got to have a ‘family life’. You had the opportunity to get married, have children, live with those children and watch them grow up.

Because you chose to rape a child, I only had seven days in hospital with my birth mother. I’ve read my grandmother visited and thought I looked like you. Imagine how that felt for my birth mother at 14 years old to look down at her baby and see the features of her rapist.

I can’t imagine what it was like for my birth mother and I in those final moments together. I can only imagine the devastation of this separation on us both. I was left in hospital alone for a further three days before joining my foster family. Who cared for me in that time? I’ll never know. How terrifying; how traumatic.

For that separation to be replicated again seven months later when I was placed from foster care to adoption, another bond and attachment broken.

You’ll never know how difficult it was for me to grow up in a white family, in a white community, in a white village outside of a white town. A minority in my own family. I grew up with privilege, but there was a point every day when it felt like I needed a coat of armour to deal with the feelings of difference, having to justify my existence in some way. Looks of disbelief and confusion when I called out ‘mum’ to my blonde adoptive mother. Sometimes I just didn’t to avoid the reaction of others. I experienced feelings of wanting to be invisible because of being black and adopted, and knowing nothing of my past. Invisibility was preferable to feeling so exposed as a black child in a white family. The times spent wondering who I looked like, why I wasn’t with my birth mother, why hadn’t I been wanted, with no one to share those feelings with.

The trauma of adoption on adoptees was not recognised when I was placed in 1976. Love was meant to be enough. It wasn’t. There is growing understanding that adoption is traumatic, but adoptees like myself are still not invited to share our often painful experiences of adoption.

Because you chose to rape a child I have had my birth identity stolen from me on my maternal and paternal sides. What has been passed down to me is intergenerational trauma, a family heirloom I’d rather not have.

You’ll never know how aware I was of my difference in addition to having little knowledge about my birth family. To then learn at 18 years old that I was conceived in rape added to the layers of complexity for me in terms of my identity. To know I exist because you chose to rape a child, to know that I am for some, the embodiment of one of the worst things that could happen to someone, to be pregnant by your perpetrator. To find out what you did to my birth mother was horrifying and could have been a reason for her to not want to meet me. That horrendous thought that we may never meet because of what you did weighed heavily until we were able to reunite.

I am more than evidence, I am more than a witness, I am more than a ‘product’ of rape. I am not your shame and I will not carry the shame and horror of what you chose to do.

Because you chose to rape a child I have sacrificed much to pursue justice and for rape conceived people like myself to be seen and heard. We are not our fathers’ sins, we are not rape babies, we are not the ‘rape clause’ for benefits, we are not ‘the bad seed’.

Because you chose to rape a child I have had to fight to be recognised as a victim of your crime to try and spare my birth mother from having to testify. Because you chose to rape a child and the justice system won’t recognise my existence, my birth mother has had to relive her ordeal to seek justice. This legal process has caused further complexities in the relationship between myself and my birth mother, in my opinion, a deeper split, which is utterly tragic. Because you chose to rape a child we are still paying the price.

It’s taken me incredible strength over the last few years to keep fighting for justice. I’ve had feelings of utter hopelessness, treated with hostility, or simply ignored, invisible. This is a fight I had to take on, the injustice was just too unpalatable. You need to be made accountable for the crime you committed. You’ll never truly understand the devastating impact your act of rape on a child has had on two children and the lifelong implications this has had on us both as adults.

This sentence is 46 years overdue, the pain you have caused immeasurable
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.

More from Global News

R29 Original Series