Friday, February 20, 2015

Going Back to the Police - I finally felt validated

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

Around five years ago, I went to the police to talk about having been raped. The experience wasn't a positive one. It actually made me feel like I didn't have the right to say I'd been raped, and that everything was my own fault. When I made progress in my healing, I found a way to move past this, and stop minimising my own experiences. But I did develop a bit of anger about what they'd said to me. So I decided to go back to the police to speak up for myself and let them know what happened when I went there, was not okay. Luckily, the woman I talked to was very empathetic and made me realise I don't need anyone telling me what I have and haven't been through. The only one who knows, is me.


Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Having backup

The first time I went to the police, I was alone in a room with two detectives. I had just started healing from being raped and had trouble telling a coherent story. The detectives asked a lot of questions about what happened and why I had responded to it in a certain way. They also asked me why I had waited so long to go to the police and why I hadn't left him (my abusive ex) after he'd been abusive. I couldn't answer them and I didn't have anyone with me to stand up for me, and I most certainly wasn't able to stand up for myself. That's why this time I took someone I knew from a domestic violence organisation with me. I felt a lot stronger with her by my side, knowing that, if the same thing were to happen again, she would be able to intervene. We discussed what I was going to say and why I wanted to have this conversation. We also discussed her role, which was mostly to back me up.

Checking lists

I told the woman from the police what had happened the first time I went to the police and she understood why that would have been difficult for me to deal with. But she also explained that the police went into the conversation from a very different perspective. They wanted to establish if pressing charges could lead to a conviction, they were just checking lists in their head. The thing is, I didn't go to the police to press charges. I just wanted it to be on record that I said he'd raped me, and I was looking for validation. Apparentlty, an intake isn't the way to get that.
I also explained to her how one of the detectives told me what I told them wasn't rape. This was very difficult for me to hear, because I felt like it was, and I needed the validation to be able to call it rape myself. I got the complete opposite and that hurt me. I explained to her that it wasn't fair to expect a survivor to tell you a coherent story, and be factual about it. I blamed myself for a lot of it, and my memories were very unclear. The detectives should have known that. They should have known that there could be more to the story than I was telling them. To just tell me I wasn't raped, like they'd been a fly on the wall when it happened, was very damaging. 

Feeling validated

She agreed it wasn't fair for them to tell me it wasn't rape and didn't really understand why this was said. She said that if I said it was rape, it was. The detectives were looking for key points that could establish rape, and they appartently couldn't find them. This doesn't mean I wasn't raped, it just means they were looking for pieces of evidence that would make clear that I was. I don't think I was far enough in my healing journey back then, to explain why it was rape, unfortunately.
She was very clear about the fact that, even if there were reasons why the detectives did what they did, that wasn't an excuse. They should have known better and treated me with a bit more care. It meant a lot to me that she said that. It was good to know why they did what they did, but also to hear that they should have done things differently. I left the room feeling lighter. Like there was a weight lifted from my shoulders. 

Light bulb moment

It wasn't until the next day, that I finally realised something. When I was talking to the police woman, it felt really good that she validated my experiences with sexual violence. I went into the conversation making clear I wasn't going to explain in detail what I'd been through. I did this to protect myself. I didn't want to get into a new discussion about if it was or wasn't rape according to the law. So I didn't. Then why did it feel so good that she did call what happened to me rape? Why did it feel so freeing? Surely, I could only feel validated if she would have heard every gruesome detail and then decided it was indeed rape? But then I suddenly got a light bulb moment. I don't have to tell people every detail, in hopes that they will also tell me it was rape. I felt that need before, but I don't anymore. The fact that she was someone working with the police, someone who didn't know me at all, and someone who didn't know any details, and still immediately accepted that it was rape, made me feel instantly lighter. It also made me realise that, although it helps a lot when other people validate your experiences, I don't need them to anymore. That's because I'm the only one who went through what I went through. I'm the ONLY one who can truly validate myself. It doesn't matter if other people don't understand, because they weren't there. I was. And I know I was raped.

Pressing charges

I promised I would mention the following in this blog post. It's always a good idea to press charges. Even if there is no evidence, it will be put on record that someone accused that person of rape. Of course it's important to realise that rules differ in every country. In the Netherlands (where I'm from) the accused will be pulled in for questioning when you press charges. So they are confronted with it, even if they don't go to jail for it. If you're not sure how the rules are in your country, I want to advise you to call the police department first. And remember that you should be clear about what you want. Do you want to press charges? Then you want them to be prosecuted. Be clear about that when you go to the police. Also, and I can't stress this enough, always take someone with you. Not just to the police department, but also into the room with you. It's best to find someone who's a professional, working with survivors, who knows how to help you, and most importantly, whom you trust.

If you're from the Netherlands, and have any additional questions about pressing charges, please send an e-mail to info@unspokenspoken.org. The woman I talked to gave me her contact details, so that I can always contact her if survivors want to know more about this subject.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke
Country: The Netherlands
Social media:
Twitter: @FennaVlekke
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fvlekke

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