Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I spent a long time waiting

To hear anything.  I wasn't particularly kept up to date on where things were at.  After almost a year I got a call from a different detective.  Since I had reported in the wrong county my case was being passed off to the correct county and the new detective wanted to go over my statement and clarify some things.  This time they would need to interview my boyfriend as well because he was the first person that I told what happened to.

We picked a date and went in together.  Again it was a sort of office building that the state police had some offices in and the Special Victims Unit was housed there.  I got the female detective that had called me, and my boyfriend was partnered with a male detective to give his statement to.

This time went much quicker than the last.  The detective had me re-read my statement and agree that it was the one I had given previously.  She then asked me some questions that my statement had left her with.  That was it.

Before we left both detectives gave us their cards and said to call if we had any questions.  The female detective told me that if my abuser started to harass me or intimidate me I should call and report it to the police as well as to the detective herself.  She then told me that she would be questioning my abuser, and would give me a heads up when she was going to be doing that but that it might take a week or two.  She told me to feel free to call her if I had any questions or concerns.  She too was very kind and comforting and did not second guess my story.  This step was fairly quick and painless.

Then we left the police station.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More nightmares last night

This time it was that my abuser had taken out an ad in a local newspaper detailing every thing he did to me.  I kept running into people and they all knew who I was and every disgusting thing he did to me.  It was awful.  In my dream he did this to try and discourage me from continuing with the trial, kind of as a show that it's only going to get worse.

In real life I know that this won't happen.  It would be an admission of guilt.  I think what the dream really signifies is that I'm worried about testifying.  There are hundreds of reasons I'm worried about it, but a major one is just the same as when I told my family: I feel like what he did to me makes me gross. I'm embarrassed to have to admit in front of a bunch of strangers what he did to me.  I know I was just a little girl, but I still partly blame myself for not being able to stop him.

After talking with my therapist I think that the other major reason I'm afraid is simply because he threatened me when I was little in order to keep me quiet.  It still feels scary and risky to go against that and tell.

So, what do I do after a nightmare?  When they wake me up I make sure that I'm completely up.  I get up and get some water or use the bathroom, this way I don't fall right back into the same nightmare.  I might also leave a light on, or turn some quiet music on, if I'm really upset I might get a cup of peppermint tea.  Then I usually do a grounding exercise such as petting my dog and really thinking about how he feels and reminding myself over and again that I'm safe in the here and now.  Another thing I might try if my dog is being irksome is just feeling the weight of my body on the bed and feeling the sheets while reminding myself I'm safe.  Then I usually try to think of something happy and daydream until I fall back asleep.  Usually this allows me to finish sleeping without follow up nightmares.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What reporting was like

It was hard.  It felt like it took forever, but probably only took an hour or an hour and a half.  It mostly involved me talking, with the State Police Special Victim's Unit detective interrupting with questions to clarify what I was saying.

I had to start at the beginning, the first incident of abuse, and explain in detail what happened to the best of my recollection.  Of course there were things I didn't know because I was five when it happened.  I didn't know the exact date, or the time of day.  I did remember how old I was, and what was on television while he was abusing me.  That was enough for them.  The hardest part for me was specifically naming what he did to me.  I had to name body parts and describe acts that made me ill to have to think about.  I reminded myself it would be over soon.  I felt detached as I spoke, but I got through it.

The detective I spoke with was a woman, which allowed me to feel as comfortable as possible.  She was kind and professional.  She did not try to deter me from reporting, nor did she tell me it was my obligation to take this as far as I could.  She was there, she was supportive, and she did her job.  When I was leaving she gave me a card with her number on it and told me to call anytime if I had any questions.

I left the detective, went home, and took a nap.  I was honestly exhausted after reporting.  I tried not to think about it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

From the beginning

So, I realized I didn't explain the process of how I went about reporting what my uncle did to me to the police.  Well, I did some research first to find out who I should report to, as I already said I reported in the wrong county at first because I didn't see anything to tell me definitively which county I needed to report it to.  This mistake caused the process to take longer, and once my statement got to the correct county I had to be requestioned and go through my whole statement again.

What I found out in my research was that I had a choice; I could go to the regular police station and make a report with whatever officer I happened to get or I could call and speak to a detective from my county's special victim's unit and make an appointment to go in and give my statement to them.  I chose to do the latter.  Honestly the deciding factor was that when I called I was given a female detective and I felt much more comfortable giving my statement to a woman and didn't want to risk getting a male detective.  Also, I thought it would be less scary to walk into an office building rather then the police station.  This may be different in other counties or states, but both SVU units I've dealt with in two different counties in my state were housed in an office building and not the police department.

In my research and in my advocacy training I've heard horror stories of people who went to the police and were not believed or were discouraged.  This made me really appreciate that I had the option of going directly to the Special Victims Unit and filing a report that way.  I would definitely recommend looking into this if you are thinking about reporting.  The most appealing thing about the SVU to me is that they are trained to deal with rape survivors, and also that they are in that field because they care about the subject and want to help survivors.  In my advocacy experience though I can also say that I have not personally encountered a police officer that treated a rape survivor negatively, or that didn't seem like they believed her.  I think that a lot of times all we see are the horror stories because people who complain are more likely to want to be heard than people who've had a good experience.  Also, I think that in the last ten or so years there has been a lot more training of the general police regarding sexual assault, and a lot more education around victims, so I would like to believe that if you were to file a report regarding sexual assault with the regular police you would have just as good of an experience reporting as I did.

For me reporting to the Special Victims Unit detectives was definitely the right choice.  Reporting was really difficult, and I'll go into more about that next time, but the SVU detectives made it as easy as was possible.