I reported my first crime back in November 2017, and came out the other end bawling my eyes out.
I decided to go in alone. Mistake number one. When arriving at the police station I went to the counter and said I had to report a crime. The first thing to know is that you’re not let into the investigation rooms until you’ve given an initial account of what’s happened. For me, that meant telling a male officer that I’d been sexually assaulted, in a waiting room with other people. He was civil and kept his voice down, and the questions weren’t invasive, but it was still a scary experience. As I went back to sit down and wait to see someone, I couldn’t help looking around and wondering if the other people there had heard, and what they thought of me.
Once in the investigations room I met with two officers specialising in sexual assaults. These women were doing their jobs. It’s not their fault I had such a bad experience. The questions asked, however, were brutal. I was reliving the most difficult experience of my life 3 days after it had happened, and I was also told this was only the brief account. If it went to court, I would have to explain in further detail even though I’d already told them all I could.
The thing with trauma is that time stops. A year and a half later, I still couldn’t tell you whether my assault lasted 2 minutes or 10. When panic kicks in, all logic goes out the window and it’s difficult to keep track of your story. Consequently, when I accidentally misspoke and contradicted myself during the interview, I was informed that lying to an officer and reporting a false assault was a serious crime. I broke down, and she asked me why this scared me if I wasn’t lying. The issue is, with these crimes, the victim is so often mistrusted that I was terrified I’d get persecuted instead of my predator. This played a huge part in me dropping the case.
To make matters worse, they asked me what I was wearing and how much I’d been drinking. Typical right? They did this because they wanted to find me on the CCTV, and they wanted to know if I was too drunk to consent. However, whatever context they’re presented in, those questions have certain connotations, and the thoughts of self-blame came flooding to my head.
The rest of the day was a blur, but I vividly remember being in a lecture after coming back from the station, tears silently streaming down my face. None of my coursemates knew what had happened to me so I thought I had to put on a brave face. Overall, my experience was so scary and traumatic in itself that I decided not to press any charges. I didn’t know who the man was and I didn’t think they’d find him.
If the media has taught me anything, it’s that rapists seldom get the punishment they deserve. The police wanted to drive me to Portsmouth to perform an invasive rape kit which would involve pictures and swabs, taken as I stand naked and afraid amongst strangers. It just wasn’t worth it putting myself through more agony if nothing was going to come from it.
So yes, my experience wasn’t great. However, that doesn’t mean others can’t be better, you just have to be prepared for what’s going to happen. You won’t be coddled, and it’ll be scary, but if you know what’s going to happen it doesn’t have to be that bad.