I didn’t feel like I was being assaulted at the time, but I knew it felt wrong, so I ran away. As I got further and further from where it had happened, I began to realise with a sickness that that was sexual assault. So I called my friend and she stayed talking to me on the phone as I took the bus to meet her. I was lucky that I realised so soon what had happened to me, that I had someone that I could call who showed uncompromising kindness and support, and that she took me straight to the police station.
It wasn’t all “well” but it was going as well as it could be considering the situation I was in. I was scared, I had been really badly triggered of previous abuse, and the guy who had abused me this time was calling my phone every few minutes. He was convinced he was going to marry me and kept leaving messages and voicemails. But I was at a police station with someone I loved, and I felt safe there.
However the more time I spent at the police station the harder things got for me. I had to repeat what had happened to 3 different officers that night alone, 2 of who were men. I was questioned to the point of tears with no suggestion of how I could receive counselling or support afterwards to help with what I was dealing with. At the time I was a minor, and my parents were called later that evening to pick me up. I was handed a police card and told the man responsible would be tracked down and questioned. I think it’s important to say here that he was in his early 20s, so as well as assault the case was child abuse as well.
The guy knew where I went to college, and worked at a restaurant just up the road. The police were aware of this, but it took them weeks to finally investigate that restaurant. When they did, they found it was closed. For those weeks, I can’t describe how scary it was just to go to school. The assault happened the day before my exams and I could hardly focus knowing my abuser could turn up outside the college gates at any time.
What made things worse was that the police had taken some of my things as evidence. They said they would take DNA swabs and then return my stuff to me in the next few days. 3 weeks later, they still hadn’t given it back. One of the things they had was my phone, so while all of this was happening, I had no way to contact anyone if something bad happened.
I was transferred to a police station over an hour away from where I lived. I went there and was asked to repeat everything that had happened to another officer, who phoned my house phone a few days later and asked if I was sure I wanted to continue the case because “worse things happened”. He also said that I could learn a lesson from this, and that next time I shouldn’t offer help to people I don’t know.
After 3 weeks I asked for my phone back, because I felt like I needed it for my safety. The police were supposed to have monitored my phone for calls and messages when they had it, but they hadn’t done this. When I brought this up with them, they asked for me to save all the messages I was receiving as evidence. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just take pictures and let me delete the messages off my phone. Seeing them every day only made things harder.
I was put in touch with a female officer who was going to help me with my statement for court. She asked me about my mental health history, and then told me I should lie about it on the form by saying that I hadn’t had any mental health problems in the past. This is because the court might think I had “hallucinated” the assault, or that I wasn’t well enough to understand properly what was going on around me.
After a month, the man hadn’t been found and they still hadn’t taken DNA samples from the rest of my things. I didn’t feel like the police were trying at all, and I wasn’t getting any support from my family. I didn’t know who to turn to or what to do so I decided to drop the case. It was making me feel isolated and triggered, and the police didn’t seem to be trying to help at all. They made it seem like it was my fault, I was deluded, and I was wasting their time.
A few months later, I received a call from a man who said he was a friend of my assaulter. I was terrified that there was now more than one person trying to find me, but even now I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the police about it. I just don’t think they can make things better. They just seem to make things worse.