Reporting Historical Abuse
TW: Childhood sexual abuse, criminal justice system, police
Why I reported the abuse?
As I got older and started entering relationships I began to remember more and more of the sexual abuse that I experienced. This came in forms of flashbacks and memories where slowly I began to notice my triggers.
I work with children and remembering how vulnerable I was as a kid and how easily adults could take advantage of me was heart breaking. It made me think how easily adults could take advantage of the children in my care and in particularly my abusers who had access to children through their work, community or their family.
I then thought because I had experienced this abuse, I had a responsibility to other vulnerable people and myself to keep them away from children. The only way I could do this was to become public with my experience and report the abuse.
At first when I decided to report the abuse, I felt immensely scared. I was scared that no-one would believe me, including the police my friends and my family. I was worried that my flashbacks would get worse the more I spoke about the abuse. But this was the complete opposite long term. At first, I had a huge bout of depression where I was crying daily and having back to back flashbacks. In hindsight my depression subsided as I began to comfort myself and develop coping strategies. One strategy included shouting this is in the past. I am dealing with it, so they don’t hurt anyone else.
I felt reporting the abuse incredibly empowering, as I felt in control over this situation. I felt that having reported the abuse, the police knew that they may be around children and could place preventative measures in place. Reporting the abuse made me feel that I had done everything I could do.
I think when things got difficult during the reporting stages I intermittently got cold feet. I felt like I was making something out of nothing. I felt that I was wasting peoples time or that my abuser would find me and hurt me out of rage of me reporting the abuse. I still haven’t overcome this. But my friends and family are supportive in making sure I feel safe no matter how paranoid I may feel. The police too talked me through a number of scenarios and how I should or could react to the them. Keeping in mind a picture of myself at the age I was abused, reminds me why I started prosecuting my abusers and keeps me strong.
How I reported it?
I was contacted by a detective who was investigating my abuser after another person had reported sexual abuse. From this I was able to share my experiences and press charges too because of what abuse had happened. A group of us victims all prosecuted the same person and they can talk you through the individual steps that needs to be taken, or keep reading.
When this case had finished the detective had noticed I mentioned another abuser and asked if I had thought about reporting them. From this they created a skeleton crime report for which my local Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) contacted me shortly after.
Alternatively, you can call 101 or your local police station whenever you feel ready to report the abuse.
What is the whole process like?
Firstly, i spoke to the police on the phone about my experience and they asked the questions they needed. It was extremely detailed and personal so make sure you are somewhere private and have access to a loved one to comfort you, or have plans later that day which are nice.
Then I was invited to a video interview when I went to the police station and was asked a number of questions in a room which is wired with cameras and microphones. For both times I’ve had an interview I was shown where the cameras were and introduced to the person in a separate room who is scribing what is being said and controlling the cameras.
Then a few other victims were interviewed before my abusers were questioned. I was informed of a rough outline of their “plea” as such when they were interviewed. My abusers were told not to approach me alike I was told similar about them. During my interview I was walked through what evidence they was going to collect ie; medical school and counselling records. I had to sign some consent forms to let them do this, alongside signing a CD of my interview and a form to share the recording with the prosecution officers.
Then it was just a long wait whilst evidence is collected. The case was sent to the relevant officials to either ‘chuck the case out’ or not, to which I was asked to provide social media records. This is quite a new thing to ensure I am not messaging others with contradictory ideas of what happened. They essentially want to see Im not lying and telling others that I am lying. A recent case in social media revealed this exactly and is why they asked. Social media records was extremely personal for someone to look at and uncomfortable, the police will sit with you and look at it and relies upon you consenting for this to happen.
My top tips
1. If you think it wasn’t right what happened, it probably can be reported and the police can help identify what charges if any are there.
2. Be honest, saying “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” and “I can’t remember” are all acceptable answers, historical abuse wasn’t reported at the time for valid reasons and with time memories can be lost. Don’t use your imagination.
3. Expect it to take a long time, collecting evidence from past abuse will be thorough including school records and medical records from the time it happened and counselling notes if relevant. The police will always ask your permission to do this.
4. Well done, it is exhausting dragging things up from the past, but it is one more step to closure and one more step to keeping other vulnerable people safe.