“You have to be strong”

A firsthand account of reporting sexual abuse to the police and prosecuting it 

At first when I rang the Police I got the idea that they didn’t want to come.

The incident had just happened – and my friend had to get on the phone and insist. In fact, he had to call another Police Officer that we knew (who was on vacation) to even get the Police to come. They wanted me to go to the central police station – but I wanted them to come to the scene of the crime.
The Police finally came out one hour later to where we were waiting.
All four were big, male policemen. I felt very uncomfortable with the four men. Many of the questions they asked me were very inappropriate and not investigative in nature. I felt as though they thought it was my fault. I asked them to come to the crime scene and my friend suggested they take photos. They took some – but they also took photos of each other, posing, smiling and being funny. It felt very wrong.

Then they sent me to the Central Police Station. I was grateful they gave me a female policewoman – but she asked me to write my own statement. I had no idea what to write. While I was reporting at the Central Police Station, another police officer was walking in and out of the room. I did not feel that my statement was being given any confidentiality.

I got a medical report, as requested, the day afterwards. I was told to go to the hospital on my own unaccompanied by Police. But when I was there they said I needed the police. I called and eventually the police came, only to have to wait outside, and they left before we finished. I was so confused – everyone was telling me different things, and I was already so shaken up. I felt very alone.

As the investigation went on, more and more police became involved. They would ask the same questions which were really hard to answer. Sometimes they would turn up at my work. Eventually the commander asked me to redo my statement and he helped by being specific about the details I needed to include. I took it home to finish. I was relieved to have the commander involved. I felt like he understood the severity of the crime.

Once the commander was involved things moved a lot faster. The police found the perpetrator and I identified him. At the station I could see the perpetrator’s family – his wife and children – sitting across the hallway. It was horrible to realise that this man had a family.

That night a policeman called me. He told me that the wife and husband were very sorry for what happened and that they wanted to organize reconciliation. The idea of sitting in a room with the perpetrator was just not possible for me. I made it very clear that this was not an option. I later found out that this was very wrong – the policeman was trying to stop the perpetrator from going to prison.

Then the police prosecutor told me that the perpetrator would be tried before the local court. I was worried that I hadn’t finished my statement, and none of the police seemed concerned. On the day of the trial I took my statement to the police and they laughed when I expressed my concern over the statement. I had to persist to get a policeman to sign it and then I had to take it to the prosecutor because the police would not do it. It felt like almost every interaction with the police was hard work.

I went to the local court because the prosecutor told me I should be there. As soon as I entered the court, the wife of the perpetrator came over to me with her children. The children kept coming up and smiling at me. It was so, so horrible. I just couldn’t understand what the family was after. The prosecutor had said my case would be at the end so less people would be there – but my case was called up second. There were over 60 people in the court room.  I felt very exposed.

The court case went in and the prosecutor instructed me to be on the other side of the building. I was grateful that I did not have to go inside and that he gave me some direction. I was also relieved that they told me that they would not place my name on the press releases. I was informed that the judge had referred the case directly to the high court as the perpetrator had pleaded guilty.

It was much clearer once the case was sitting with Crown Law. They rang me to inform me of the process and the progress of the case. Finally I was told that the perpetrator had been charged with the most serious sentence for attempted rape and sexual assault. I feel better knowing that he is not in the community.

Overall I felt totally confused and angry with the police, although I was relieved that the commander got involved. I had to do everything on my own. The way the policemen acted made me feel as though I was forcing them to do work. I got the impression that they did not handle cases like mine often. Constantly needing to re-tell my story, and to do to so many men, was awful. The whole situation has left me wondering how anyone can be strong enough to report a rape to the police.

The only thing that kept me strong through the whole process was knowing that everyone who reports to the police makes it easier for the next person. It was worth it, but you have to be strong.