After Reporting Non-Recent Abuse: A Personal Journey Pt 3
After pulling together everything you have in the way of determination and resolve and taking that step to report non-recent abuse to the police the next big event that seems designed to challenge that resolve and determination is the formal, evidential, interview.
This is where the police take your statement about what you remember, and then being to asked questions about the events, your memories and why you have reported the abuse. It is designed to enable them to get as much information about the offences you have reported while at the same time getting a sense of you as a person, no doubt to judging how you might perform in court and what weight to give to your evidence / story.
Perhaps the first thing that surprised me, and something that the police might want to publicise a bit more, is that when the arrangements were made to attend for the interview the location was not, as I expected and feared, at a police station.
I guess we all have this picture that all the interviews that the police conduct are situated in a small sparse room with a small table and a tape recorder. This is the picture of the police interview that countless police dramas have presented and one that has entered the public consciousness. It is also a perception that could have been designed to put somebody off reporting abuse to the authorities!
A few phone calls between myself and the police officer who had been tasked to undertake the interview and it was arranged that I would meet them after work in a supermarket carpark. I should note here that the interview was being conducted by officers from Avon and Somerset police while the actual investigation under the control of Hampshire Police. This being the case because the offences happened in Hampshire while I know live in Somerset.
After being met in the carpark I was met by an office, in plain cloths, who directed me to a nearby and very very nondescript office block. This building could be any office in any town. There was no way that a casual observer would link it to the police or to being a location where police interviews were held. You could, and may well have, walked or drove past it every day and never known.
The obvious point here is that nothing, not the police officer that met me, the building or the location would have made anybody wonder why I was there or associate my presence with either the police or the task I was about to undertake.
Once I had been taken into the building the office explained the process to me. This included showing me the entire suite which included a waiting room, the interview room and recording room where the video recording equipment was held.
The ‘general’ structure of the interview was also explained to me with assurance around the security and confidentiality of anything I said and with that I was led into the interview room its self.
The Interview Room
The room its self was simply furnished and decorated in fairly neutral pastel tones with the heating set to a neutral but comfortable temperature. Again, the location meant that there was very little extraneous noise and the soft furnishing, a fabric sofa and two chairs provided a sound deadening effect. I was invited to sit on the sofa, which was provided with some cushions. The net effect of this was I was able to sort of ‘nest’ on the sofa which provided a degree of comfort and feeling of safety.
This was to be a video interview, that is the interview would be recorded, both sound and video, rather than the officer writing down my responses. This no doubt allows for a freer flowing conversation and certainly made the experience less intimidating.
The camera and microphones were discrete built into the ceilings and walls, in fact wouldn’t have even spotted the microphones if the officer hadn’t pointed them out to me. The camera, rather than an intrusive free standing video camera on a tripod I had half expected, was like the cameras you see in shops set into the ceiling.
The interview its self.
Right at the start I was told the general structure of the interview. I would be asked to tell the interviewing officer why I was there, sort of to set the scene and to give a foundation for the interview itself. The why being a bit more than ‘to report non-recent abuse’ of course. What was wanted was both the fact that this was about such a report and the basic details of the event that I was reporting.
This led into the questioning by the officer, the questions were initially designed to tease out from me the event and the context of the offence but then expanded in nature to include how sure I was of my memories, whether there could be other interpretations of those memories.
The questions were not aggressive but definitely probing and challenging and while the truthfulness of what I was saying was never directly questioned the nature of some of the questions were certainly about checking the internal consistency of what I had told them.
Obviously, there were also questions dealing with the detail of the abuse, very personal and embarrassing details and again subsequent questions required me to relive and remember where I could things that I had buried for 40 or more years. To say that they were difficult is somewhat of any understatement.
The interview its self wasn’t as triggering as I had expected. This was possibly because I had sort of gently disassociated in the lead up and during the interview itself. This slightly outside myself feeling continued for the rest of the day. It was the following day that it hit me, all the feelings, memories and despair. All the self-loathing and conviction that going to the police was the wrong thing to do, that nothing good would come from it and that indeed I was just lining myself up for another fall came flooding over me. This was a difficult few days.
While the interview itself was handled as professionally and sensitively as it could be, I have nothing but praise for the officers and processes in that respect, once again what was lacking was any sign of support, signposting or real concern for the impact that it had, would have, on me as an individual.
Once again, I am forced to believe that the needs of the victim reporting non recent abuse is way down the list of things that the police consider, if they consider it at all. This has to change, if the police really want people to come forward this attitude has to change and the needs of the victim has to become an integral part of the whole investigatory process.