As a survivor of sexual violence, this can be one of the hardest decisions you ever have to make. No one can decide for you. You have to be ready.
I didn’t think I would ever be ready. I was sexually abused as a child by my dad’s friend. When my parents found out what had happened they asked if I wanted to report it to the police. I was adamant I did not. I had been through enough. I couldn’t face going through any more.
One friend said I had a responsibility to report it. That he might go on to hurt others. I was very clear. Only he was responsible for his actions. It doesn’t stop the guilt though. Because there might be others, and in fact there were others. The police brought together five of us at trial. Hearing there were others was devastating. On one hand it wasn’t just my word against his, on the other hand four other women were also suffering.
In my 20s I thought about reporting. I even talked to my dad about reporting. Three days later, dad died, suddenly and unexpectedly. I have always thought the stress killed him.
In my 30s my sister reported it for me. I was furious. It wasn’t her story to tell. Now I see she was trying to protect others, and to protect me, something she couldn’t do before. As this was before Ian Huntley and Soham. Then, without my statement, they couldn’t investigate. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. During therapy I had learnt to put it in a box and put the lid on. I had my life now to consider, I didn’t want to face what had happened to little me. I didn’t want to do it, be cross examined, have to face him, have him know anything about me now. I told the police I didn’t want to pursue it. I demanded they remove it from their files. They told me they couldn’t. At the time I felt so exposed, so vulnerable. Now I’m glad they couldn’t remove it from their files. It was evidence.
As time went on, after Savile, a little voice said, maybe I could do this. Every time I saw a conviction of historical abuse I grew with confidence. As time went on I realised it wasn’t just my word against his. I had told friends, I had told a teacher (after it had stopped and before the obligation to report it). I had told my family, I had told my counsellors, I had told my GP.
One day, I was targeted my scammers, calling from TalkTalk. I didn’t believe them, but I didn’t feel that I could say no. I didn’t know how to say no. My no’s had never been respected.
I was left feeling so vulnerable. Then it hit me. I realised I didn’t feel safe in my own home. This was old feelings of the abuse I suffered. Then all I could do was think about it. The cyber police website offered contact from victim support. I’ll just ask them about the process I thought, ask them how reporting historic cases works.
They put me in touch with RASAC http://www.rasasc.org.uk/. From the moment I contacted them they were amazing. “I just want to talk to someone to talk through the process” .I told myself this. I wasn’t making the decision, just finding out about it.
They put me straight through to an advocate. She was brilliant, and gentle. She let me set the pace. We spoke over the phone a couple of times before I was ready to meet her. At our first meeting she talked me through the process. The whole time, I was in control. There was no pressure. All she wanted to do was support me in whatever I wanted to do.
If I wanted to report it (and it was very much an if), she could arrange for a specially trained officer (a SOIT officer) to come and take the initial statement. They could come to the centre. She could be with me. If I needed to take breaks, I could. From there, the next step would be making a full statement at the police station. They could video this (it’s called an ABE-achieving best evidence). This meant that if it went to court, it could be played in court. I only needed to say it all once.
I would still need to be cross examined. I didn’t want to see him. Or for him to see me. She said we could apply for special measures. This meant I could give my evidence from behind a screen. I wouldn’t need to see him. This was such a relief. And that my advocate would be with me ever step of the way.
But what if they couldn’t find him? What if he was dead? What if he was already in prison? What if he had left the country? We talked through each of these scenarios to see how I felt about each of them.
We met and talked about it a number of times. There was no pressure. It was up to me. They would support me whatever I decided to do. I decided I had to try.
I was worried that if they found him, if it went to court, I might bump into him. I was told that there would be a separate room where I would wait. We could do things to minimise the risk; go their extra early or after 10am when he would be safely in the dock. Some courts even have a separate entrance for victims of crime.
If it went to court, and once we knew which court it was, we could go and visit it. I could see what the room was like, the witness box, the screen.
We talked through what would happen directly after I reported it, if I reported it. There would be the initial statement, followed by the video statement. The police would then investigate. If it met the threshold it would be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They would then decide whether to charge him considering whether a) it was in the public interest and b) they were more likely than not to get a conviction. If the CPS charged, he would have a hearing in magistrates court, before being sent to Crown Court.
From report to court could take years. In our case it took 4 years. The average is I think closer to 2. My advocate gave me this to look at too.
It is really triggering in parts, it talks about specific offences and defines them. But It was really helpful in helping me understand the process.
I got to a point where I just thought, why should he get away with it? He has been getting away with it all these years.
But what if I wasn’t believed? What if he was found not guilty? And this was a big one for me. But I had to try. If found, he would, whatever happened, have been held to account. He will have been questioned by the police. They would take it very seriously. I would have told. The one thing he didn’t want me to do. Whatever happened he hadn’t silenced me.
And he didn’t. He didn’t win. I stood up in court and I told him I won’t keep your secret anymore.