victim blaming when reporting
This is a story about victim blaming in the police force. It shocked me because I’ve done work with organisations combating violence against women and I know the amount of training, educational work and time that has been put into making sure that the negative victim blaming attitudes which have historically kept convictions for DVA and sexual violence low are challenged. I somehow believed that *all* of the police force were ‘trying’ even if results were mixed. This is how I found out that wasn’t the case.
Essentially, I had my drink spiked. How isn’t necessarily that important, but I went out for a meal with my partner and then went to a bar with all my friends – I’d just had some important interviews and exams so it was a big night out. I was having an amazing time, and ended up chatting to a group of people in the smoking area. Most seemed to have left and one man was still talking to me – telling me a story about his family life in a hell of a lot of depth that I felt I had a responsibility to hear out as he seemed like he needed to talk to someone. The last thing I remember is thinking ‘something’s not right with this guy – this isn’t true’.
From then on I only know what my partner and friends told me. Apparently I suddenly walked away from this man and came inside. He followed me and started trying to talk to me and usher me away from my friends, at which point I *hid* behind my partner and looked as terrified as he’s ever seen me. (Point worth making here: I’ve had my drink spiked before and I’ve experienced sexual violence before. I trust my instincts. Although I don’t remember, if I was afraid that says it all to me. I could never know who spiked my drink but I was *also* afraid of this man.) Since my friends are apparently smart as hell and on the ball, they took me home that instant. I made it back and seemingly went to sleep/passed out, and suddenly started convulsing and vomiting while still unconscious. Obviously I still remember none of this. My partner stayed up with me for five hours while I was still unconscious and vomiting, trying to make sure that I didn’t asphyxiate.
My first memory is waking up completely naked on a bathroom floor and having no idea where I was. Needless to say I was upset and scared and triggered. My second memory is continually passing out for the next 12 hours and ending up going to A&E, only to be told that drink spiking doesn’t happen and I must have taken recreational drugs or drank more than I thought. I somehow thought reporting to the police would yield better results: obviously I was wrong.
The first ten minutes of talking to the police officer was spent with her asking me to detail *exactly* what I’d drank and eaten, including drink sizes, and arguing that it must have been more or I couldn’t have eaten that evening because realistically the amount I’d had shouldn’t result in a healthy young woman unconscious vomiting all night. Apparently drink spiking doesn’t happen. I told her I’m fully aware of the research which suggests that it’s over-reported and a) I doubt the methodology plus b) she hadn’t considered that drink spiking with alcohol was also a possibility.
Then we moved on to the lecture. She told me that I should ‘take this as a lesson’ given that I hadn’t been assaulted (after she had gone through my memory of the night with me AND my partner to make sure this couldn’t have been the case). Apparently I should never drink ‘more than a couple of drinks’ unless I’m at a house party (because women are never raped at house parties?!). She said that the police often ‘pick girls up off the floor’ because of excessive drinking, and if ‘a man gets there first’ it puts them (the police) in a ‘difficult position’ because the women can’t say no.
It’s worth noting that I replied in no uncertain terms that this kind of attitude is damaging and that actually, I *have* experienced alcohol used as a weapon against me in order to perpetrate sexual violence – I *am* still a little afraid of drinking in public. I love house parties (in my own house with select friends) for that reason. That is my decision in order to feel secure and absolutely not something a police officer or indeed anybody else should be validating or perpetuating. I relayed this and her woman blaming attitudes continued. I made a complaint to someone I knew high up in the constabulary through the front line work I’ve done and nothing came of it. And then y’all started this fantastic campaign and I thought I’d share the story if nothing else 🙂
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Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We believe you. We know drink spiking happens, and we know it often isn’t taken seriously by the police.