THE chief of North Yorkshire’s police and fire services has revealed she was raped as a teenager and has vowed to make a difference to victims of sexual assault.

Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, has opened up about the assault when she was 15 for the first time – revealing she only told friends and family last month – because she “can’t keep the secret anymore.”

She said: “Just over 36 years ago, aged 15, I was raped. I have never said this publicly before. Up until last month, I hadn’t told my family or my closest friends. Those conversations, over 30 years on, have been some of the hardest I’ve ever had. But I decided that I can’t keep this secret any more.

“In my job, I meet many women who talk about what’s happened to them, to try and make it better for others. I have spent time with children who have been exploited, and I know in different circumstances, that could have been me. Like many others, my past is material to who I am today, and what I do today."

Mrs Mulligan even criticised her own force for a child abuse campaign which was removed over claims of victim-blaming.

She said: "Crown Prosecution Service figures recently showed that there is a shockingly low conviction rate for people accused of rape. As was shown recently inadvertently but demonstrably in North Yorkshire, policing still all too often falls unwittingly into the trap of blaming victims."

She admitted her reasons for speaking out were in response to allegations of bullying behaviour made against her by her former staff, which were made public last year and upheld by the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel.

She said: "Over the last few months my character has been called into question through allegations that hurt me deeply. I know I am far from perfect, indeed I am my own harshest critic. After all, I have spent 36 years beating myself up for a situation that I still think today was partly of my own making.

"I also hate to ever think I had either intentionally or unintentionally, made someone upset or feel unvalued, and for that I am deeply sorry. But those characterisations hurt. I can’t hide that - and they brought everything back I’ve hidden away for so long.

"I have seen the #MeToo movement take off and it is vitally needed. Women of all ages and all backgrounds get a different treatment in this world than men. In work, in public life, in society. When we challenge the status quo, vested interests and campaign for change, there can be an undercurrent of sexism that's like a slippery fish - you glimpse and feel it, but it’s impossible to pin down, so you end up full circle, castigating yourself."

She added: "I want to help stop more girls and women, boys and men ever experiencing it in the first place.

"It’s why I chose public service, it’s why I wanted to become the Police and Crime Commissioner, it’s why I am determined to make a difference."