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Rape survivor's story helping to drive improvements

A rape survivor has bravely told her story to police investigators to try to help them improve how they support other survivors.

She also urged anyone considering reporting a sexual assault to get in touch with their local sexual assault referral centre as soon as possible, to recover vital forensic evidence, even if they haven’t decided yet whether to report it to the police.

The survivor, whose identity is being protected, was a special guest at a recent conference which brought together police investigators, forensic professionals and other experts in the field of sexual assaults, to share best practice and try to improve processes to achieve better outcomes for survivors.

The event was hosted by Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry, who is also joint national Victims lead and is passionate about improving outcomes for rape survivors.

Speaking about her ordeal, the survivor said: “I was just angry and in disbelief. I didn’t think it could happen to someone like me. It’s one of those things that just happens to other people and then it happens to you.

“I just felt angry and betrayed. My whole life was on pause for that investigation. That’s what I’d like the investigators to realise, is that you’ve got a person who’s just waiting for you to be done with that case, whatever the outcome; that is hanging over them.”

Her attack in 2016 happened in another East Midlands force area, but her experience is being used to help investigators from across the region to make improvements. She has also made a video with her home force which is being used as part of officer training.

She said: “I think it’s incredible that they are shining a light on this sort of thing, and particularly in my case where I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because I felt that DNA evidence was purposefully not left behind. Even though it wasn’t there, there was something else that they were able to prove that he was there – where said he wasn’t.

“I would say it’s not the right thing for everybody to report it. I completely appreciate that. But for me, it was 100% the right thing to do, because I saw him face up to what he had done.

“I know he’s never going to forget being in that courtroom. But having said that, right at the beginning when it happened to me, I was almost like, do I even need to tell anybody? Maybe I can just save everyone around me the hurt from the ripple effect that it has. But I’m so glad I didn’t do that.

“Everyone around me has been so incredibly supportive. Everyone believed me, which is the most important thing.

“I would also like people to be aware that you can go to a sexual assault referral centre, have the swabs taken, and they can keep them while you decide if you’re going to do anything or not.

“You don’t have to get the police involved at that point. But it’s very important that you do that as soon as possible. I know it’s not nice, but for me, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be – nowhere near.”

Commissioner Henry paid tribute to the survivor’s bravery when recounting her experience to dozens of investigative experts at the conference at the Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Nuthall on 25 January.

“Rape and sexual offences are among the most serious and impactful crimes a person can experience,” said Commissioner Henry.

“Sadly, outcomes for victims of rape, nationally, aren’t where they should be.

“Whilst much work has been done to improve the response to rape and sexual offences and improve outcomes, there is still room for improvement.

“Forensic science has such a significant role to play in such investigations, whether it be used to identify a suspect, associate a suspect with a survivor, attribute individuals to a crime scene or corroborate other evidence.

“I know there is lots of exciting and innovative work happening across the region, and nationally, to make marginal gains in every area of investigations to help bring more perpetrators to justice and support survivors and this event was all about stimulating discussions and sharing these brilliant ideas.

“We looked not only at best forensic evidence but we also heard from a survivor of rape. It was a difficult story to hear because she told us what police did really well, but also where they could get better. I am determined that together we will do that.”

Amanda Naylor, Central Services Manager for East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) Forensic Services, was one of a number of other speakers at the conference.

She said: “EMSOU Forensic Services have been looking at the outcomes of rape and sexual assault investigations.

“We’re trying to look at the forensics and see how we can optimise these to get better outcomes in our investigations.

“We’ve worked with forensic service providers, experts in these fields, investigators who specialise in these offences, and I was very pleased to get the support of Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry, who shared our vision about better outcomes for victims and members of the public and offered to hold a conference for us to bring these like-minded experts together and to try and further the knowledge and the expertise in forensics and investigations.

“We structured the conference as if it was following the life of an investigation. We had, at the start of the conference, a survivor who was very brave and wanted to assist us in helping us progress these investigations.

“She’s worked with the police force who investigated her offence and now also ourselves at EMSOU Forensic Services, to let us know what went right and what went wrong in her investigation from her point of view and all of this information, we can take and will assist us to progress cases in the future.

“If you find yourself a victim of a rape or sexual offence, I would recommend that you contact either the police or sexual assault referral centre as soon as possible.

“Whilst I would advise recovering forensics as soon as possible, ultimately the aim is to support you, and to ensure that you get the help and the welfare that you need. This is before we deal with the investigative and the forensic side.”  

If you have been affected by rape or serious sexual assault, you can report it to Nottinghamshire Police. Call 101, or in an emergency, dial 999.

Adults can also speak to the Topaz Centre – Nottinghamshire’s Sexual Abuse Referral Centre - for support, by calling 0800 085 9993.

Children and young people affected by rape or sexual abuse can get support by calling the East Midlands Paediatric Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Service on 0800 183 0023.



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