Presenter: Hello and welcome to Cambs Cops: Our Stories.
Firstly, a warning at the start of this podcast that we will be covering themes which some listeners may find upsetting and may be considered suitable only for adults.
Today we'll be discussing the process of reporting a sexual offence, speaking to Detective Inspector Amerjit Singh and Sexual Assault Referral Centre Manager Rachel Matheson.
We will also be speaking to a survivor of a serious sexual assault, as she discusses her experiences and how she reported what happened, after initially being worried that she wouldn't be believed.
Survivor: So, it happened in April 2015 and it took place in a hotel. I was away on business and the perpetrator was my line manager. I'd known him for eight years, had an okay working relationship, but never really liked him as a person. He was the sort of type of womaniser and very arrogant, but as I say, to work for professionally everything was fine.
On the night in question whilst a group of colleagues socialised at the hotel, with him included, he began texting me and this escalated to what I'd call sexual harassment, each time with me refusing his offers and advances. When we all eventually retired to our respective bedrooms he continued to prey on me by constantly ringing my mobile. He felt like a predator, when he said to me I shall knock on every bedroom door until I find you, and yet I still wouldn't disclose my bedroom number to him, but on the phone after some noise and like a dropping smashing sound the line fell silent and I assumed that he had finally given up and passed out, but unbeknown to me he was more determined than ever to find me, even after falling down a full flight of stairs near the reception area. He had ransacked reception and found my details, including my room number, and then he found a night porter and he lied to them stating that he was my husband. Obviously, I'm an employee so he knows my surname and he said that he'd lost his room key for room 26, which was mine. Tragically, the night porter escorted him up to my bedroom and he let him in. I was in bed in my pyjamas in the dark. For the next 20 minutes he sexually assaulted me and it was only the repeated action of throwing me to the floor which raised the alarm with a family below. After squirming away and grabbing the ringing bedroom phone I screamed at the caller, who happened to be the barman from earlier on. I screamed to him to come and rescue me from the man in my room. He arrived within what felt like seconds and escorted the perpetrator out. I sat on the bedroom floor for hours just sobbing.
Rachel Matheson: Trauma affects people in different ways and what we do is we address the needs of the patient as they come in, or before they come in, to make sure they feel as comfortable and supported as possible.
Survivor: It was playing over and over in my mind 24/7 and it was both unbelievable, but very real at the same time. I knew what happened was wrong, I knew it was a crime and I'd been violated and hurt and so I thought realistically I only had two options. I either report to the police or I don't, and of course it was difficult, but once I decided to report my sexual assault to the police, then to me it was just a case of turning up a police station. I remember I felt scared, but also reassured that these were the people that were going to help me.
DI Amerjit Singh: Rape investigations and serious sexual offences are one of the, if not the most, challenging investigations to prove in court. Essentially, most of these cases are one word against another, however as investigators and officers it's really important that we are professional in our conduct and that we support the victims, but also, we gather as much evidence as we can. A lot of that relies heavily on our victims supporting the prosecution and there are measures that we put in place to do that, but also the officers are trained to ensure that they gather evidence from a wide variety of sources and have an ability to gather that evidence professionally.
Rachel Matheson: We don't encourage our survivors to report to the police, we have we have many people who come use the SARC who have reported to the police, however we also offer an option where people can self-refer and this is so that they can get the care that they need without reporting to the police and I think that's incredibly important, because I think what the self-referral option does is it buys people time, so they're not trying to make a decision when they are experiencing trauma. So, what we what we tend to do is if they want to have forensic samples taken we can store those for seven years, so if they want to go to the police during that time then all the evidence is still there, but we are entirely patient-led.
Survivor: My life pre-trauma no longer exists as I knew it. I've grieved for the person that I used to be and even after these many years I've begun to accept that person is never coming back and that's very hard to do.
DI Amerjit Singh: Some of the negative stereotypes are the issues and also some, as you probably know nationally, there is a low conviction rate currently of a rape and serious sexual offences and you know the police and the prosecuting agencies are doing everything we can to change that and to encourage people to report and some of the reasons for not engaging could be because of the fear of not being believed, or a fear of not getting a successful prosecution, a conviction at court, and I think what I would say to any victim out there is that we will believe you. As Cambridgeshire Constabulary we are really driven to help people of serious sexual offence violence and also ensure that we're getting them justice and again if there's a concern about not being believed, I can assure you that's not the case. We will deal with you professionally sensitively and to ensure that we give you as much of our time as needed.
Rachel Matheson: I think speak to someone whether it is someone like the Elms, whether they want to talk to the police whether, it's friend family member, it's really important to have some support and someone you can talk to.
Survivor: It's trying to struggle alone, it's hard to describe, but it's basically, it's soul destroying and very debilitating. You can't really function and any survivor of this type of crime will probably resonate with some of what I'm saying. Having a safe place to visit and receive some aftercare support and even to just discuss your options is a real life saver. Like I say, I was so alone not knowing about the service, that I did think I only had two options and I wasn't even functioning probably correctly to make rational decisions. You can decide via the Elms whether you want to go on to report your assault as a crime or not, it's an option as I say that I wasn't aware of, I didn't realise that I could obtain any care and support as a victim of sexual crime without going through the police. Every emotion that you feel is valid, there's no instructions on how to survive such an intimate and intrusive trauma, but there are guides and there are specialist support options available, including talking therapy, which will provide you some slow and gradual reassurance and help rebuild some strength for you to take whichever path you feel is right for you to recovery. This is what I massively missed out on because I was unaware of such services and I feel that this would have made the world of difference to me in my journey to recovery.
Presenter: Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak to us today, in particular the sexual offence survivor, for bravely coming forward to tell her story, and thank you for listening. Remember to look out for the next episode of Cambs Cops: Our Stories on our YouTube channel.
If you've been affected by the content of today's podcast, or want to know more about the support options available to survivors of serious sexual offences, please visit www.cambs.police.uk/rape for more information.