Sheffield woman who was raped by bogus taxi driver turns her life around
A inspirational woman raped by a bogus taxi driver in Sheffield met Prince Charles as she celebrated turning her life around and winning a prestigious award.
Chantelle Gautier, aged 24, was attacked by a man pretending to be a cabbie who picked her up on her very first night out in the city centre after she turned 18.
She had lost her bag, had no phone or cash and flagged down a car she thought was a taxi.
The attack left Chantelle, from Southey Green, at rock bottom, leading to her self harming and drinking to block out the sex attack.
She was also afraid to leave her home.
But today, six years on, Chantelle is celebrating after being crowned the Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador of the Year.
The Prince’s Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards recognise disadvantaged young people who have overcome issues including abuse, drug addiction, homelessness and unemployment.
Chantelle picked up the accolade at a ceremony in London attended by celebrities including singer Rita Ora, actor Tom Hardy and magician Dynamo.
She took part in a Get Into Customer Service programme delivered by the Prince’s Trust and bank firm HSBC in Sheffield, which provided young people with the skills and experience needed to find work.
It led to a full time job with HSBC for Chantelle, who now also travels the country – often addressing hundreds of people at a time to talk about how the Prince’s Trust changed her life.
Chantelle, who credits the charity with saving her life, said: “If it was not for the Prince’s Trust, I would be dead probably.”
She said she felt she had no reason for living after seeing her attacker jailed for seven years following a trial in which she had to relive her ordeal as she told jurors what happened and faced cross examination.
“It had got to the point where I had nothing to get up for, I had nothing, I was just plodding on,” she said.
“After the trial I was poorly. It made me angry that he (the attacker) was in prison getting an education and three meals a day while I was struggling to survive on job seekers’ allowance and wasn’t getting any training or education. So I made the decision to do something about it.
“For me getting my job wasn’t about the money, it still isn’t. It’s about me being a strong woman and not letting the attacker ruin me or my life.
“I like to think that I ruined his when he went to prison.”
Chantelle secured her job after the Princes Trust and HSBC programme taught her interview skills, how to compile a CV and gave her work experience.
“We were all so lacking in confidence, we couldn’t even look each other in the eye,” she said.
“But we were different people at the end of it – we could walk out with out heads held high.
“I am not saying that life now is covered in glitter, there are bad days, days when I suffer a panic attack for example, but the Prince’s Trust gave me something to get out of bed for and every time I put my uniform on for work it gives me strength to carry on.
“The Princes’ Trust never saw me as a rape victim, they saw me as a young woman who had had a raw deal and they wanted to help me. That’s why I enjoy being a Prince’s Trust Ambassador, I enjoy giving something back and will probably still be doing this in 20 years’ time if I can help others.
“The Trust gives young people a chance when no one else will, and I’m so proud to be part of such an amazing and life changing organisation.
“I’m proud of how far I’ve come. As a young ambassador I have the power and the platform to show young people that they don’t have to be a statistic and that there are people out there like The Prince’s Trust who want to help them be everything they can be.
“Because of The Trust, I’ve got a job. But my job means more to me than nine-to-five. It means I’ve got a career, I’ve got stability and I’ve got pride. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Actress Brenda Blethyn, who is also a Prince’s Trust Ambassador and presented Chantelle with her award said: “The Prince’s Trust has been helping the hardest to reach young people move into education, training or employment for 40 years. “With the youth unemployment figure four times higher than the adult unemployment rate, the Trust’s work is still vital, now more than ever. The fantastic young people we celebrate today are a powerful reminder to our nation that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, no matter what their background.”
Youth charity The Prince’s Trust was set up by The Price of Wales in 1976 to help disadvantaged young people to get their lives on track.
This year it is celebrating 40 years of supporting 13 to 30 year olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion.
The Prince’s Trust has supported 825,000 young people since it was launched and this year will support over 100 more each day.
For more information about The Prince’s Trust and how to get involved visit princes-trust.org.uk or call 0800 842 842.