Cheshire Police continues to drive out the message ‘rape shatters lives, there is no excuse.’ For over a year now Cheshire Constabularies Dedicated Rape Unit which brings together specialist officers to work with victims of rape, have been working closely with the Crown Prosecution service to get justice for victims of rape.
Historically, the number of rapes and sexual assaults show a rise during the winter months and in particular the spikes happen in the run up to Christmas. Cheshire Police through the ‘rape shatters lives’ campaign are determined to raise people’s awareness about the fact there are more rapes and sexual assaults occurring at this time of the year than at any other time.
To get this message across, Cheshire Police have been able to speak to a victim of rape who has allowed us to tell her story about how rape shattered her life.
Her experience starts when she is a teenager during her first sexual relationship. She was inexperienced, and really young at the time, she speaks about ‘being quite vulnerable ‘as this was her first proper relationship and she didn’t have anything to compare it to.
To protect her identity we will refer to her as Sasha and this is her account in her own words of how rape shattered her life.
"I was young and I thought I was in a normal relationship and although I didn’t think what he was doing was right, I didn’t really know he shouldn’t be doing that in a relationship. It is only now that I am coming out of it that I now see how bad it was"
She explains how she went to the police a lot during the relationship. "I’d been given cards and things with numbers on and other information from the police including call this number if you have been a victim and things. To be honest I never did, in the whole time of the relationship, I never did contact anyone. I did make use of a women’s refuge a couple of times though."
When the Dedicated Rape Unit was established in September 2011, Sasha’s case was brought to the attention of the specialist officers in the Unit. She talks about the difference it made to her having officers who, because they dealt with many cases of rape, really understood from her perspective what she was going through. "The officers have just been a big support. They didn’t just come out and take a statement from me and leave me. They would phone me, and ask me if I was ok."
Officers from the Dedicated Rape Unit build relationships with the victims by taking the time to listen to and support each person they have contact with.
Sasha comments, "The officer dealing with my case would phone me in the week, and ask "how are you? how’s your week been?" and it was really nice. It just made you feel like someone was there and they are supporting you all the way through. You are not just a number to them. They are not trying to win a case; they actually care about you all the way through it. I needed it at that point."
Sasha went on to say how not having to speak to more than one officer every time she rang the unit really helped her to form a close bond and build up that trust − one thing she has found it difficult to do with everyone she has met since her abusive relationship.
She continued: "It was almost like she had been there the whole time. She knew everything and could jog my memory of incidents that had happened, because I would forget. It is all a big blur and all blurs into one because all sorts had gone on. But she would know and she’d say, "you said in your statement this happened then". I needed that right up to the court case, because I was really panicking about everything and couldn’t think straight. She was able to calm me down and just helped me all the way through it."
Talking about what it was like after the court case, Sasha comments:
"It was a big relief afterwards. When the officer told me what the verdict was, I just cried. It was just loads of emotions. I was upset, I was pleased. It was just a really strange experience. It was an end to 10 years of hell."
Sasha went on to describe how after it was all over, she felt empowered knowing her ex was in prison, giving her a sense of freedom and security and with the help of her dedicated officer from the Rape Unit she has been able to piece her life back together and think about her future more positively. She continues;
"Now that I know that he’s gone, that’s it. He can’t do anything else to me. I’m in control of my life now; I will do what I want to do. Without him going to prison, I don’t think he would have ever left me alone. So knowing that he’s locked up and can’t get to me is a massive weight off me".
In the short time that the Dedicated Rape Unit has been established, the Unit has worked closely with the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) and the Sexual Abuse Referral Centre (SARC) based at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester to provide that much needed support to victims.
You can read more about the rape campaign at www.cheshire.police.uk.