I wanted to write a few short, informative posts on this. When I was searching for information on how to report sexual abuse I suffered as a child, I found it difficult to find any simple, practical information. At the same time, I think it helps to hear it from someone who has done it.
I’m in the beginning stages of the process, but hopefully by sharing what’s happening for me I can be of use to someone in a similar position. There are also a few charities I’ve found really helpful, so I’ll list them here too.
Call 101 or go in person to a police station
Emotionally, it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but practically, it is very simple to take the first step. You can either go to your local police station and ask at the front desk to talk to someone to make the report, or you can call the non-emergency police number on 101.
I found it easier to make the initial report by phone. It meant I could be at home in familiar surroundings. I didn’t have the anxiety of getting upset in a strange place with people I didn’t know. Importantly, the police officer I spoke to was very sensitive and took my allegations seriously. He didn’t question me, he just took down the basics and let me know that someone from the specialist team would contact me within a few days to ask for more details.
You won’t be expected to remember everything
There is no need to say anything that isn’t factual. Nobody will expect you to remember all the detail of something that happened a long time ago, especially if it was traumatic. The police are clued up enough now to understand that memories of abuse are often based around short flashbacks or recollections of particular moments. They won’t want you to fill in the gaps. You don’t need to remember every single thing that happened, or specific dates for instance. It’s their job to build up a bigger picture with additional evidence.
There may be things you’re ashamed of, or that you see as wrong, but don’t leave these out. It is really important that you are honest and can be established as a credible witness from the start. Remember that if you knowingly leave out any information that comes to light later, it could be used to discredit what you’ve said.
Get some professional support
Digging into the detail of such horrific experiences is likely to be emotionally demanding. It’s good to have a counsellor or therapist to talk things through with and get some support from. Have a look at this page for some info on finding a therapist.
There are a network of charities throughout the UK who offer advice and advocacy for victims of rape and sexual abuse. Many of these can provide you with an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor). I met with someone from RASASC a few times to talk through what’s involved in the legal process before I decided to report my abuser. Her advice was incredibly useful and she signposted me to further information as well.
Importantly, it doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse happened. There is no rule that says a sex offender can’t be prosecuted because too much time has passed. Here in the UK, we’ve had the obvious example of Operation Yewtree; the investigation that was sparked by the Jimmy Saville allegations and reached much further to include a whole host of other offenders. Even though many of them are now elderly, they were still prosecuted.
Here are a few useful links:
- Lifecentre: National charity offering support for survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
- RASASC: Local charities offering independent advice on sexual violence.
- Victim Support: National advocacy for victims.
Also, there’s a short leaflet called ‘From report to court‘ that includes some detail on the legal process and sentencing. Bear in mind though that an offender is subject to the laws at the time the crime happened. That meant the information in this leaflet was too up-to-date to be completely relevant for me.
Any questions, feel free to send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m only in the early stages of the process myself, but if there’s anything you’d like to ask please don’t hesitate.
Photo: Stephen Pierzchala, Creative Commons.