Rape: Through the eyes of an investigator

Following last week’s blog post in which a rape victim spoke out about her horrific experience, we now hear about rape from a police perspective.

Detective Constable Mel Knight is part of the Rape Investigation Unit at Bedfordshire Police and gives a behind the scenes look at dealing with the job.DC Mel Knight

How I deal with a victim of rape could and probably will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I deal with rape only, and to say it is one of the most controversial and sensitive crimes the police investigate is an understatement.

Although I have a job to do and my ultimate goal is to find out the truth, I can only do that with the co-operation of the victim.

I have met victims so traumatised by what’s happened that they say nothing.  They cannot bring themselves to say it out loud.

I have also met victims who simply want to tell you everything, and you can almost see the relief on their faces and in their body language when they have told you their story.

Sometimes victims tell us they are ashamed. That they somehow feel responsible for what’s happened. This is the last thing they should feel.

If it’s a domestic violence situation they may even still love the perpetrator and not want to get him in trouble.

8am on a Sunday morning and there is a job in.  The rape is against a woman and the suspected person responsible is not yet in custody.

The victim is being looked after by the rape first response officers.  These officers are invaluable to us, as they are able to offer the victim the extra mile while at the same time getting information, helping to gather forensic evidence and passing general information to us to help us in our aim to get the truth.

If a rape is reported within a certain amount of time of the incident happening we are working against the clock, forensically. A forensic medical will be arranged for the victim and the suspect as bodily fluids can be detected within specified timescales.

On this occasion the suspect and the victim are both within the forensic window and we need to act quickly to get him in custody.

After a frantic search, using intelligence tools, the Police National Computer and other systems that are available to us – he’s in.  This takes a massive pressure off of us, but now it’s the custody time clock we are working against.

Rape interviews can go one way or another.  No two interviews are ever the same.

In the six-and-a-half years I have been working in the rape unit, I have had just one male admit to raping someone.

The others may give a wide and varied account, with others giving a no comment interview.

He answers no comment during his interview meaning we do not know what his defence is.  After 21 hours’ work, gathering evidence and consulting CPS – we charge.

A rape investigation is a long investigation just because it’s such a serious crime.  I always say to my victims: ‘I can’t promise you a conviction, but I can promise a thorough investigation.’

If the evidence is there we will charge, but if it isn’t, we can’t.

This is probably one crime where there is rarely CCTV or witnesses.

The majority of the time it is just two people together when the incident happens.  It’s an emotional crime and a one that is very sensitive.

There is so much more to dealing with a rape than just evidence.  It can be draining, but when we get a good result it can be elating.

Sometimes the victim may hate us as we remind them of the crime against them. Sometimes they are so grateful it’s like their life depends on the result, and to be honest, it probably does.

As a rape investigator and a woman I try very hard to distance myself from the scenarios I face.
I’ve dealt with women and men that have been raped during a night out by a complete stranger and I’ve dealt with domestic rapes where the two parties are married or living together.

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder how I personally would cope or what I would have done in that person’s shoes. I try not to do that, as seeing and hearing the things I do every day could make me not want to do anything or go anywhere.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of my job, and as strange as it may seem it is the best job. But I do go home and hug my family a little bit tighter every day I am a police officer and rape investigator.

To read the post from a victim of rape, click here.

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault, you can report the incident to Bedfordshire Police on 101, by texting 07786 200 011, or alternatively, contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 in an emergency.

All reports of sexual assault, whether recent or historic, are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

You can also contact Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Emerald Centre, by visiting www.emeraldcentre.org, emailing info@emeraldcentre.org or calling 01234 897052, for help and guidance.


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