A question of consent

BedsThere’s no conventional profile of a rapist – it can be anyone.

The public’s perception is that rapes are usually carried out by a stranger but these are actually a rarity. In most cases, the rapist is someone who is known to the victim.

In this case, the victim had met the suspect in a bar on a night out, but they didn’t know each other before that evening. It was one of the first rape investigations I was involved in from the very beginning.

The case was called in by the hospital the woman visited after the incident.  It’s not unusual for people not to report such an incident directly to the police, if they report it at all – it’s a hugely difficult thing to relive such an ordeal.

We immediately launched an investigation. We didn’t know who the suspect was, so we had to start from scratch.

The victim didn’t know what hotel she’d been in when the incident happened, but she was able to give us a brief description.

She knew it had white walls and a green door, and she’d also given us a description of the room and its number, so we began a search of hotels in the area that matched that description.

Fortunately we were able to quickly identify the hotel and we were able to seize bed linen from the room. Finding the location also meant we were able to get the name of the suspect and he was quickly brought into custody for questioning.

Forensic evidence can be crucial in rape cases, but if the suspect says there was sexual activity and it was consensual, such as in this case, then we have a much more difficult job on our hands.

We continued to search for more evidence and sought out a witness –which itself can be rare in rape cases – but this wasn’t enough.

The woman was clearly a different person after leaving that hotel. But both she and the suspect had given different accounts as to the reasons for her change in behaviour.

We believe each victim, all along, but the difficulty comes in proving beyond reasonable doubt that the sexual activity occurred without their consent.

In this case, the CPS decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to secure a charge on the suspect.

Calling the woman to inform her of the CPS decision was incredibly difficult, delivering the blow to our victim that we couldn’t take the case any further unless new evidence was to come to light.

She was fully on board with our investigation, had given us everything she possibly could, and it was tough to let her down.

There’s definitely a widespread issue of the understanding of consent. People should know that it’s about more than just the words, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Someone doesn’t have to be screaming and fighting for them not to be consenting, or withdrawing consent.

I’d really like to tell people out there – victims or not – that we would never simply close a case because it’s one person’s word against another.

We do all we can to prove a version of events and make sure that victim gets all the support they need for the ordeal they’ve experienced.

It can be hard to get people to understand the complexities of a case like this.

Hopefully the programme shows the extent we go to investigate these matters, before it goes out of our hands.

Thankfully we are seeing more people being confident in coming forward, knowing that we’ll do everything we can.  I’d like to think we’re making a difference.

Detective Constable Paul Falcon has been with Bedfordshire Police for nine and a half years. After working within the force’s Rape Investigation Unit and leading the case featured in 24 Hours in Police Custody: A Complaint of Rape, he is now working for CID in the south of the county.

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2 thoughts on “A question of consent

  1. Ritita Angelita Rivera 15 June, 2016 / 11:45 pm

    The German tourist heard the victim say “me duele” which means “it hurts” in Spanish but sounds like “I will it”

    Like

  2. Anonymous 16 June, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    Having been a victim myself and having evidence and witness statements the CPS still wouldn’t charge. After a year the same guy hurt me through battery (I was not back with him) but this time it went to court and he was found guilty. Even though new evidence of his ability to abuse me was clear, the CPS still would not reopen the case which I believe I could have died during. I feel for this woman and every single woman effected. 6% that make it to court get a conviction is apauling. You make us relive it to do everything we can to help you get a conviction and justice but are let down in the worst way. The system as it stands is just not effective enough. I know policing has major staffing shortages and the force is being stretched to its absolute limits but this should not be a reason that monsters go free. It’s not just the crime it’s the mental scars from the perpetrator and their family. Threats on your life to drop the case. Personal belongings being vandalised and your life generally being terrorised all because you trusted the wrong person! I watched this programme with interest. The outcome sadly predictable.

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